Mike Nielsen had to pause for a second, dig through the memory bank a little, before he could recall his last collegiate track victory.
“My last win? Oh God, more than two years ago,” said Nielsen, who was a redshirt last season because of a hamstring pull.
Nielsen, a junior from Mater Dei High, ended the two-year drought last Saturday by winning the 1,500 meters at a nonconference meet at Irvine.
He finished in 3 minutes 52.45 seconds, just two-tenths of a second shy of his personal best.
But more importantly, he was draped with the finish-line tape when it was over.
“I really needed that (victory) for a confidence booster,” he said. “It felt really good. For a while, I was starting to doubt myself.”
He hadn’t won since March 1991, when he was victorious in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters at a nonconference meet.
A nagging hamstring injury sidelined him last season. He spent most of the summer in rehabilitation before returning for the cross-country season last fall.
“Mike had a good cross-country season,” Irvine Coach Vince O’Boyle said. “The time off last year was good for him. He learned some things about himself.
“It’s a tough adjustment for the distance runners their first two years of college, and Mike needed time to adjust.”
Only a few schools recruited Nielsen after he graduated from Mater Dei in 1989. USC wanted him, but offered only a partial scholarship. O’Boyle came through with a scholarship that summer, and landed one of the county’s top distance runners.
Nielsen is now a walk-on, paying his tuition after Irvine dropped its track and field program but reinstated it on a self-funded basis last year.
Although a junior in eligibility, he’s on schedule to graduate in June with an English degree. Although he has one year of track and field eligibility remaining, he’s moving on next season.
“When they dropped program, they dropped my scholarship,” he said. “And with fees going up, I can’t afford to stick around here for another year.”
With that in mind, Nielsen is taking advantage of every race. He hopes to break 3:45 in the 1,500 by the end of the year.
This weekend, he’ll run the mile at the West Coast Relays in Fresno.
“That’s my first mile in quite a while,” he said. “I just hope everything goes well.”
Ed Elisma update: The New York City prep basketball star said Tuesday he will decide between Georgia Tech, UC Irvine and at least two other schools by the April 14 national signing day.
“I’m still considering a lot of places,” said Elisma, who has visited Irvine, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Seton Hall.
Georgia Tech and Irvine have been front-runners for Elisma since last fall. But Elisma’s coach at LaSalle Academy, Bill Aberer, said last week that Irvine was out of the running and that Elisma might follow Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins to South Carolina.
Cremins has since returned to Georgia Tech. Does that have any impact on Elisma’s decision?
“A little,” he said.
Elisma has yet to meet NCAA requirements for his college entrance exams.
The UC Irvine-Marriott Tennis Classic, which begins Thursday at various sites, features three teams ranked in the top 25--No. 25 South Alabama, No. 24 UC Irvine and No. 7 Alabama Birmingham.
Alabama-Birmingham is the tournament’s defending champion and has three nationally ranked singles players--No. 12 Frank Schaffner, Michael Kirsten (27th) and Paul Rosner (50th).
Thursday’s first-round pairings:
9 a.m. (at UC Irvine Tennis Stadium)--Northeast Louisiana vs. UC Santa Barbara, Virginia Tech vs. Alabama Birmingham; 11 a.m.--Harvard vs. Fresno State at Balboa Bay Club, Boise State vs. Middle Tennessee State at Mesa Verde Country Club; 11:30 a.m.--Texas Arlington vs. Pacific at Newport Marriott; 12:30 p.m.--Idaho vs. San Jose State at Park Newport; 1 p.m. (at UC Irvine)--UC Irvine vs. Wichita State, South Alabama vs. Texas El Paso.
Quarterfinals are Friday, the semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday and the championship match at 1 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
Volleyball player Chad Milling is ninth nationally in service aces with 24 in 51 games, a percentage of .471.
The men’s basketball team averaged 3,067 fans for 11 home games last season, the second-highest total in school history. The school record is 3,125 during the 1988-89 season.
Former UC Irvine player Jeff Herdman will be conducting basketball camps June 28-July 2 and Aug. 16-20 at the Eastbluff Boys’ and Girls’ Club. The camps, aimed at fourth- through eighth-graders, include guest pro speakers as well as work on fundamentals. For more information call 714-640-6650.