Distance Duo

Junior distance runners support each other through success and injury


Courtesy of Katy ISD Athletics

Junior Heidi Nielson runs at the Bubba Fife track and field meet Feb. 29. The Fife Meet was Nielson’s second competition since recovering from her injury last fall. Nielson won the indoor mile at the University of Arkansas Qualifier.

Yoonsoo (Seth) Choi, Staff Writer

Sophomore Sophie Atkinson and Heidi Neilson have been running together since elementary school. 

In the fall, Neilson was injured during her Cross Country season and was unable to compete at the state meet alongside Atkinson, who placed 34th. This Track and Field season Neilson is back after finishing physical therapy. 

To start off their season, Atkinson won the Strake meet and is ranked first in Texas for her mile time, which is 4:57, and Neilson won the Arkansas qualifier in Fayetteville for her mile time, which was 4:52.

“It was a meet to set people up to get fast times, so I wanted to get a fast indoor time to go to indoor nationals,” Neilson said. “I was able to get back into the zone with Coach Mathis’ support and the team. It was pretty tough. I started doing cross-training. I was working out twice a day biking, swimming, and stair climbers. My whole journey has been with my teammate Sophie. We started running together when we were young. It’s been a long experience with lots of ups and downs, but it’s been exciting and fun.”

Atkinson had to train alone while her friend, Nielson, was going through physical therapy.

“When she wasn’t there it was really hard for me to stay on my paces and do runs alone not having her because we kind of took it for granted doing those things together,” Atkinson said. “We’ve both been through injuries now, so it’s made me realize how much we depend on each other in training. I have always been passionate about running and it’s rewarding seeing how the hard work you do pay off. It’s pretty early in the season, but hopefully, I can stay up there. Last year, I made it to state in the 800, mile, and two-mile. I was really proud of that, but this year I am going to aim to do two of them but to do them better because when I ran all three of them it was overwhelming. Right now, I am looking into the mile and two-mile.” 

Neilson was the runner-up in the mile last year and is being scouted by colleges.

“This year I want to be able to win,” Neilson said. “I am talking to Arkansas, Duke, Oregon, Brigham Young University, Wake Forest, and University of North Carolina.”

Atkinson hopes to continue her track and field career in college.

“It would be super amazing to continue into college,” Atkinson said.