Aptos native Nikki Hiltz crosses the finish line at the 2024 US Olympic Team Trials. (Courtesy of USATF)

Aptos native Nikki Hiltz guaranteed their spot at the upcoming Summer Games following a record-setting performance at last weekend’s U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.  

The 29-year old middle-distance runner won the women’s 1500-meters finals in 3 minutes, 55.33 seconds, setting both a personal-best and meet record on June 30 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

“It’s unbelievable, I can’t believe it,” they said in a post-race interview with NBC Sports. “This is bigger than just to me, it’s the last day in Pride Month. I wanted to run this one for my community. This is for all the LGBTQ folks. You guys brought me home in that last 100 [meters], I can just feel the love and support.”

Hiltz, who identifies as nonbinary, has been a very supportive, and outspoken, ambassador for the LGBTQ+ community. 

They became the second athlete out of Santa Cruz County to punch their ticket to Paris. Joining Hiltz is former Scotts Valley High star wrestler Dom Parrish after she qualified in the 53 kilograms weight division. 

Hiltz—a former college standout at Oregon and Arkansas—also etched their name in the history books by putting themself in the No. 2 all-time spot on the American performer list. 

A huge smile lit up the television screen prior to Hiltz putting their right hand on their face, and shedding some tears before falling to both knees on the track inside Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.

Hiltz, who is sponsored by lululemon, used one final burst of energy to edge New Balance teammates Emily Mackay (3:55.90) and 5000 champion Elle St. Pierre (3:55.99), who finished second and third, respectively.  

Mackay and St. Pierre took over the No. 3 and No. 4 all-time berths on the U.S. list, and also qualified for the Paris Games.

Nike’s Sinclaire Johnson (3:56.75) took fourth for No. 6 all-time, and New Balance’s Cory McGee (3:57.44) placed fifth to put her at No. 10 on the list.

There wasn’t much movement throughout the first 300 meters until Mackay passed up Hiltz going into the final stretch of the opening lap.

Hiltz continued to drop and saw themself as low as sixth about 1000 meters into the race, while St. Pierre led the pack at 3:08.77 going into the fourth and final lap.

As the cowbell rang to signify the final 300 meters, Hiltz made a slick move on the outside to catch up with the front of the pack as they rounded the first bend. 

They zipped past Dani Jones and Mackay, before making a move to slip past Sinclaire Johnson.  

However, Mackay made her move on the outside to put herself in the top three along with teammates Maclean and St. Pierre. 

With a look of determination on their face, Hiltz fought their way back to third place going into the final 100 meters. Once again, they relied on their go-to move on the outside and surpassed both St. Pierre and Mackay to capture their second straight national championship. 

“To be going with these two,” Hiltz said as they pointed to both Mackay and St. Pierre. “Elle St. Pierre has elevated women’s distance running. I saw the time and I didn’t think that was possible, we all had to rise because of her. Awesome team we’re sending to Paris.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.



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