The Winning Stride

Oct. 17, 2005

IOWA CITY, IA – Thirteen years ago, she started running at a local Little Athletics club because she enjoyed running at her school. Now, in her last year of eligibility, senior Nikki Chapple has become one of the best cross country runners in the country.

“She’s a fierce competitor. A tough young lady. You can sense it the first time you meet her,” said University of Iowa Women’s Cross Country Coach Layne Anderson.

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Chapple left her home in order to experience another life, in particular, a college athlete’s life. She wasn’t interested in competing on a team there, which are mostly for the social aspect and without much team support, Chapple said. When Iowa came knocking at her door, she knew she had made the right decision to leave.

“I didn’t really decide on Iowa; it was more of a spontaneous decision. I had offers from other universities. Iowa just happened to offer me a place at a time I was looking for such an experience. I’m really glad I chose Iowa. I am very happy here,” she said.

She’s also been very successful here. In her first year of competition in 2003, she led her team at the Big Ten Championships, where she placed 15th in the 6,000-meter race. She also placed 32nd at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

Last year, she was one of two Hawkeyes to compete in every race. She led her team in five consecutive races and also broke her own 6,000 meter school record at the NCAA Midwest Regional. She also placed 18th at the Big Ten Championships and 46th at the NCAA Pre-Nationals.

Senior Nikki Chapple

This year has been more of a challenge, as Chapple has been battling allergy problems. However, she did well in her first race, placing 24th at the Williamette Invite on Oct. 1st.

Anderson knows it won’t be long before Chapple finds her winning stride again, as her commitment has never wavered.

“It’s not uncommon for me to see her running at 5-6 in the morning. January or July, she’s out there and gets her run in. She doesn’t let weather get her down,” he said.

Part of her success is due to always finding time to get in a workout. She also cites being stubborn and having a determined personality as helping her achieve her success, as well as encouragement and dedication from her mother.

With all of her collegiate accomplishments, it’s surprising to learn she is most proud of her performance at the 1998 World Junior Cross Country Championships and the World Junior Track Championships. She had never considered herself a track runner, but she knocked 30 seconds off her best record in the 5,000 meters and 15 seconds off her 3,000-meter time.

As for this year, both Chapple and Anderson know anything is possible.

“I want to feel like I used to because then I know I can achieve my goal of running under 16 minutes for the 5 km,” she said.

“Not having her in the first meet affects team performance. We’re so excited for her to be going again because she’s capable to be in the front every time,” said Anderson.

Chapple has learned a lot from her experiences. She hopes to travel next year, with dreams of living in London or India and learning about other cultures.

Anderson hopes Iowa’s other runners have learned from her as well.

“If you lose Nikki Chapple, you’ll lose talent, a silent leader,” he said. “I hope younger kids are good enough to step up and fill her shoes. We’ll never completely replace her.”

By Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information