Runner hides a fierce side

David La

As she has been many times before, Minnesota’s Corinne Nimtz was the smiling face on the customer’s side of the counter, preparing to purchase yet another Beanie Baby.
“Everywhere we travel, she says, ‘I have to go (to a store), maybe they have Beanie Babies,'” teammate Minna Haronoja said. “When she finds a really cute one, it’s like a sign of good luck. She gets really excited about it.”
But what the shopkeepers or check-out attendants do not know about the pleasant Nimtz is her fierce competitive nature, summed up by former Eden Prairie High School coach Larry Anderson, who once said, “She’s a mean son-of-a-bitch.”
Gophers sophomore Corinne Nimtz runs for both the cross country and track teams. She had considerable success in the 10,000-meter run this season, finishing second at both the Drake Relays in April and the Big Ten outdoor championships last weekend.
The official lineup for the NCAA meet in Boise, Idaho, June 2-5 wasn’t released until late Thursday, and while she is on the bubble, Nimtz was told by Wilson that she is “99 percent” likely to make the cut.
Nimtz would go in to NCAAs following a solid track season in which she began to announce herself as a force in the Big Ten.
Her second-place finish at Drake saw her cut almost three minutes off her time from a year before, and though the Big Ten 10,000-meter was ended eight laps prematurely due to inclement weather, Nimtz again finished second.
“It was really fun,” Nimtz said of the conference race, “because that was the first time that Erica Palmer (the race-winner from Wisconsin) and a few of the other really good distance runners in the Big Ten actually acknowledged my presence.”
Making her presence felt on the track is something Nimtz only dreamed about as a walk-on. Her first captains’ practice gave her doubts about whether she could succeed at the Division I level.
“I ran with a few of the girls on the team and I was the only freshman,” Nimtz said. “We ran ten miles really fast, and one of the senior girls was talking about how she studied five hours a day. I didn’t know if I could do all that.”
Nimtz could, and has. As a runner, she is on the brink of a national breakthrough. As a student, she was on the Dean’s List every quarter her freshman year.
“Now that I’ve made a jump, I can see that maybe my goals aren’t as far off as I’d thought they would be,” Nimtz said. “It’s exciting to see the progress I’ve made.”
It must also be fun to continually fool those who would size her up as just an easygoing collector of stuffed toys.
“She looks prim and proper, but when she gets on that track she wants to tear your face off,” Wilson said.