A familiar face was competing in Worthington Arena a week ago when the Montana State track and field program hosted Idaho State in its first event in nearly a year. Countless times before she’d gathered her pace and leapt into the sand pit that sits in Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at the end of a successful long or triple jump attempt.
Her journey back inside the confines of Montana State are much different than most on her current team. Despite donning a non-identifying uniform as an unattached athlete in MSU’s dual versus Idaho State on Jan. 22, Carla Nicosia is preparing for an outdoor season representing the Bobcats.
Just a year ago, Nicosia was starting to put the finishing touches to her track and field career at the University of Montana. The Columbia Falls, Mont., native had been gearing up for her final outdoor season for the Grizzlies. Nicosia had already utilized four of her indoor seasons specializing in the triple jump. She had redshirted the 2018 outdoor schedule, so Nicosia had one remaining outdoor campaign to accomplish the goals she’d set for herself. She had used the entire indoor season, which included appearances inside Worthington Arena as an unattached athlete traveling with the Montana squad, to get ready for her final season of competition.
But the ensuing coronavirus pandemic derailed the plans she’d had in mind. Instead of looking at things negatively, the high-performing triple jumper put things into perspective.
“It was tough, but I tried looking at it in a positive mindset,” Nicosia said of last year’s canceled outdoor season. “That means I have one more full year of training to get to exactly where I want to be. I had a good indoor season unattached, so I was really ready for the outdoor season.
“This year of training, especially with Dustin (Cichosz) with all of his jump drills and technique we’ve been doing, I think it will put me in a better place than where I would have been last outdoor season.”
Nicosia had lit up the triple jump mark board throughout the 2020 indoor season competing unattached. She already had earned a podium finish during her college career, taking second at the 2019 Big Sky Outdoor Championships that were held in Missoula. Nicosia had a variety of options as she contemplated her next move.
Her academic pursuits included the opportunity to study dietetics at the graduate level. Her area of study, along with the athletic goals she still had, helped sway her to Bozeman.
“I graduated with a degree in exercise science and a minor in psychology from Montana, so I pretty much did everything school wise I wanted to do there,” Nicosia said. “So I got into the transfer portal and I talked to Montana State along with a couple of other bigger schools.
“I chose to come to Montana State because I wanted to win the Big Sky Conference title, so I had to stay in the Big Sky.”
She’s already shown signs of development since arriving on campus.
In MSU’s opening meet of the indoor season, Nicosia again donning unattached attire, recorded a triple jump mark of 40 feet, 5.5 inches (12.33m). That mark not only topped her previous personal best indoors by nearly a foot-and-a-half, it also would have broken the Montana State indoor program record by almost half a foot.
The process of continuing to grow in her specialty is something Nicosia finds rewarding.
“It has really made me love the success and failures,” Nicosia said of the triple jump. “It’s such a constant work in progress. It’s super hard and frustrating, but then once you do find success, it makes it all worth it.”
Nicosia’s experience in the event is among the most in the Bobcats’ jumps group. Her jumps coach, Dustin Cichosz, believes her prior knowledge from a different program will only serve as a positive as the outdoor season draws closer.
“The great thing about Carla is that she’s really open to criticism,” Cichosz said. “She knows that it’s going to make her better. With her experience, she brings in a lot that’s different in our system, then we can kind of mix and match what works best for her. She’s really competitive, she’s a good leader and that brings something holistic to the team.”
The next step for Nicosia is clear. While her postgraduate plans include opening a private practice that focuses on her areas of study in exercise science and dietetics, she still has the next few months to take aim at her goals as a member of the Montana State track and field program.
“I have quite a few goals,” Nicosia said. “The first one is to break the school record here (at Montana State). My best jump when I was unattached (outdoors) was 39-11.25 and the record here is 40-03.25 and I’ve had scratched jumps over that. So it’s realistic.
“My ultimate goal is to win the Big Sky Conference (championship) because I’ve finished second and I want to make it to regionals.”
She hopes to have her chance when the Big Sky Outdoor Track & Field Championships are expected to take place this May.
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