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Posted: February 5, 2016:  

(RRW) Athletics: USA Champion Tully Has Literally Worked Her Way To The Top

From David Monti, @d9monti
© 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved.

NEW YORK (04-Feb) -- At last June's USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the crowd at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., was spellbound as they watched the last lap of the women's 5000m.

Despite a fast pace, six women were still in contention at the bell, including former Villanova University athlete Nicole Tully. Despite the fact that she was running in only her second 5000m on the track, Tully felt confident that her closing speed could carry her to victory. Rounding the final bend, she barreled down the homestretch with Marielle Hall, Abbey D'Agostino and Emily Infeld hoping for her first national title. It was any woman's race.

"As soon as I could see the finish line it was just a complete blur and I was just trying to get there," Tully told reporters after winning by just 1/100th of a second over Hall and securing a Team USA berth for the IAAF World Championships. Her last lap went down in a swift 64.39 seconds.

While Tully picked up $7000 for that win from United States Track & Field (and probably a tidy bonus from her sponsor, Hoka One One), those payments were just gravy on top of the regular paycheck she had already earned from her day job in marketing communications with the global technology company Canon, Inc. Tully, unlike most elite runners, still works 40 hours a week, and that's just the way she wants it.

"Personally, it works out really well for me," Tully said at a press conference here today in advance of Saturday's Armory Track Invitational here where she'll compete in the 3000m. "I do work full-time in marketing communications for Canon. I love my career as much as I love my running career."

Tully, who is allowed to work from home or the road when needed and who has flexible hours, said that it was important to her to use fully the business degree she worked so hard for at college. She told Race Results Weekly that she didn't want to have a huge gap in her résumé which would hinder her business career once the 29 year-old's professional running days were over.

"For me, I worked too hard undergrad for my business degree to just go 100% into running," said Tully, who also holds a masters degree in communications from Rutgers University. "So, I enjoy the balance. It adds a different element to professional running. You have to be cognizant of your time and able to transition quickly, just like a student-athlete in college. And for me, it just gives me something else to think about, to not always think about running."

Tully's discipline is a major part of her success. Under New Jersey/New York Track Club coach Frank Gagliano, Tully's career has blossomed. While at Villanova, where she competed under her maiden name Nicole Schappert-- she never won a Big East conference title, and her best finish at an NCAA national meet was sixth in the indoor 3000m in 2010. But since working with coach "Gags" her 1500m time has come down to 4:05.89, her 3000m to 8:55.48, and her 5000m to 15:05.58. Avoiding injuries which had plagued her during her post-collegiate career, she made the final at last August's IAAF World Championships, finishing 13th after an excruciating wait under the stadium to see if her 15:41.03 in the first round would advance her on time.

"It's a nerve-wracking 20 minutes," Tully told Race Results Weekly at the time. "You know, there's nothing you can do."

Tully said her boss and coworkers are very supportive, even if they don't completely understand what it means to be a national track champion in a country which routinely earns the most athletics medals in global championships. But, she said, they are learning.

"I think a big eye-opener for then was watching the USA Outdoor Championships last year. So, they get it, but they don't. I think they understand how strongly I'm ranked in the world and in the U.S., but what they don't really understand is everything that goes into that, all of the training, all of the travel. But, even without that, they're incredibly supportive."

At Saturday's meet, Tully will again face Jordan Hasay who edged her over the two-mile distance in last year's Armory Track Invitational by 1.1 seconds. In a tactical race, Hasay showed excellent closing speed, running the last two laps in 31 and 30 seconds, respectively. Tully said she hoped for a different kind of race this year.

"I always pride myself on having a very strong last 200, and she had a better 200 last year," Tully said plainly. She continued: "I think the goal this year (is) we're looking for a fast race. Last year was a little more tactical. At the end of the day, I think it's just staying calm until that last 200, and then bring everything home. That's what we work on in practice. Some days it works out; others it doesn't."

PHOTO: Nicole Tully competing in the preliminary round of the 5000m at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)

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