ENGINEERED FOR SPEED
By Bryant Drayton
It’s not uncommon to find junior Nichelle Scott sitting at the training table, rehashing her notes from class and refueling after track or cross country practice.
Scott, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Outdoor 800-meter champion, is constantly pushing herself while running and in the classroom, a necessity for the chemical engineering major whose journey to VCU was just a short trip up I-95.
The Chesterfield, Virginia, native began her running career as an eighth-grader who joined her school’s cross country team as a way to spend more time with her friends. While it may have begun as a social venture, running quickly became competitive. By the time she reached L.C. Byrd High School, her career began to take off.
As a senior in 2014, Scott captured the VHSL 1,000-meter championship and was an All-State performer in the 800, results that caught the attention of the VCU coaching staff.
Scott says she was looking for a true student-athlete experience and saw a perfect match at VCU with its chemical engineering program and with Rams assistant coach Nicole Cook, who won a national title in the 800 indoors for Tennessee in 2004.
“I tried to refine my search by which school that had my major and I wanted to go to a different environment than what I was used to,” Scott said. “I really liked the coaching staff and the bond and communication that was built, where I knew I could be comfortable with them and get the right coaching I needed.”
Having both run the same event, the two have a competitive and formidable bond. Cook often ribs Scott about her race times, comparing the two as a means of motivation. Scott, who ran 2:10.03 in the 800 last spring to set a school record, believes she can top Cook’s personal-record of 2:03.27.
“It’s nice to know you’re working with someone who has been there,” Scott said. “She has a wealth of experience. She knows what she’s talking about.”
Scott’s track success is only matched by her academic pedigree, as she also earned a place on the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Academic Team. A self-described math and science fanatic, engineering first came into Scott’s life through her dad, a civil engineer. Now, thanks to an internship at Dominion Power this past summer, she has her eyes set on an exciting career of her own.
She worked in the Environmental Quality department at Dominion. Among her duties, she used a database that checked proper chemical levels on-site and trained her team on its use.
“My manager and supervisors were really good about giving me a well-rounded experience, being able to shadow people around the plant,” Scott said. “My favorite part was going around the plant and seeing how things come together, seeing the business aspect of how the lights come on.”
With summer and her internship over and school back in full swing, Scott is hoping to put the some of the setbacks of her sophomore year behind her. She battled injuries in both her shins throughout the cross country and indoor season and admits she didn’t feel completely herself until February. Then, right as she began to feel healthy, she was dealt another setback.
“I got hit by a car a week before Indoor conference,” Scott said. “I was just getting my confidence back and then it happened.”
Following two other runners, a car that was turning on the street she was crossing struck Scott. She luckily walked away from the scene only bruised, but it was another setback to a year that despite ending successfully, has fueled her motivation.
“Looking back at the year as a whole, whatever setbacks I had last year at this point are gone,” Scott said. “That is the biggest thing driving me athletically this year.”
She aims to improve on her times from last season while being an anchor in her team’s quest to build on their A-10 Outdoor Championship from the spring.
“That’s one thing that I like about my sport is you will always have the opportunity to improve or make something of the next season,” Scott said.
With all of her accomplishments so far, it’s easy to forget she’s only a junior, but this engineer’s daughter has already engineered quite a path of her own.