After the Lowell Sectional last month, several girls were laughing and enjoying the atmosphere on the bleachers.
Tori Nida was curled up on the ground away from the laughter untying her shoes.
The Lowell senior is one of the least assuming record-breaking runners in the area. She doesn’t stand out until about halfway through her hurdles races when spectators pick her out of the blur and say things like, “Oh, the Lowell girl is winning.”
Nida did a lot of winning this season, making it to state along the way, and she turned enough heads to earn a bid, along with a handful of local athletes, to this weekend’s Midwest Meet of Champions, the final all-star competition for prep track athletes, featuring a sampling of the best senior track athletes in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m excited about it,” Nida said Friday from IPFW, the headquarters for Team Indiana entering today’s meet in Fort Wayne.
“I’m excited to learn more about the sport and meet new people, people at the same level as me. I’m getting along with my roommates. They’re all from far away. I haven’t heard of a lot of these schools.”
Friday’s scheduled events included a banquet and some motivational speakers with clout in the sport. Today’s co-ed track meet begins with a parade of athletes.
Nida might blend in with the crowd or she might have the biggest, brightest smile of all the athletes.
“(After being invited) I was kind of surprised but really excited,” Nida said. “It’s an Indiana team. There are a million runners in this state, and I get to be on this team out of everyone.”
Nida initially joined track to condition for volleyball and do something different from her sisters. Her oldest sister went to college on a cheerleading scholarship, and her next oldest sister, Becca, was a softball star for Lowell.
“I kind of wanted to step out of my sister’s shadow and do something else,” Nida said. “Plus, I liked running, so track was a great option.”
She was hooked after making the regional in the 300-meter hurdles her freshman year.
This past season she broke the school records in the 100 dash, the 200, the 300 hurdles and the 400 relay with three freshmen teammates in the latter.
In addition to taking 12th in the state in the 300 hurdles, Nida set the sectional record in that event.
Nida won four individual events (100, 100 hurdles, 200, 300 hurdles) at the Munster Invitational, and she made the regional in both hurdles races and the 400 relay.
“In the grand scheme of things, it was one of the best seasons anyone in the history of our program has had,” Lowell coach Scott Coil said.
Running back-to-back races wasn’t an issue. The 300 hurdles precede the 400 in traditional meets, and the 100 and 100 hurdles are almost always adjacent races.
“She never complained,” Coil said. “She said, ‘You guys set the lineup. I’m just here to run what you want me to run.’ Her versatility is one of her greatest assets. There are not many sprinters that are very willing to do that.”
The muggy, dark state meet in Bloomington was Nida’s favorite memory. Her family and friends had matching “Team Tori” T-shirts.
Today she hopes to see some college recruiters in the stands along with “Team Tori” members. She’s yet to decide on a college despite being accepted to several, and she wants to go somewhere she can continue to run.
“This meet is one more thing to do and she just loves the sport,” Coil said. “It’s nice to be able to go represent something bigger on a much more grand scale, and she’s very excited to represent her school and her state in the meet.”