Mira Costa’s Lawson Gets a Jump on the Competition


Three days after she set a school record in the long jump, Nikki Lawson realized what she had accomplished.

Lawson, a Mira Costa High senior, jumped 19-feet-1 on April 22 in an Ocean League dual meet against Culver City to break the school record for the third consecutive week.

However, she didn’t realize what all the fuss was about until last Sunday, when she watched a triangular-meet between UCLA, USC, and Arizona on Prime Ticket and saw that her mark would have won the women’s long jump.


“I thought everyone blew it out of proportion, until I saw (the college meet) and everyone there was in the 18’s,” Lawson said.

It has been a spring of surprises for Lawson, who will attend the University of Virginia on a volleyball scholarship in the fall.

Lawson is also the Mira Costa record-holder in the triple jump at 37-6 and has helped the Mustangs win their first Ocean League championship with a 4-0 record. They are 11-1 overall.

Earlier in the school year, Lawson competed for the volleyball and basketball teams. She had played soccer her first three years in high school before switching to basketball last season.

“I don’t think anybody expected her to do this well in track,” track Coach Rich Egan said. “She’s been really outstanding this year.”

Before this season, Lawson’s best events were the triple jump and 100-meter hurdles. Her first mark in the long jump was 16-8.


“She’s been trying to improve in the long jump every week,” Egan said. “She expends most of her energy on that, so the triple jump gets kind of anticlimactic.”

Lawson did not expect to do this well in track. In fact, she had no plans before this season to compete in track in college, but she has changed her mind.

“Now that I’m doing so well, I think I wouldn’t mind jumping (at Virginia),” Lawson said. “I didn’t know that I was going to do so well.”

Lawson’s father, Rick, was a hurdler at UCLA for one season in the late 1960s before he turned professional and did a Wheaties commercial. Lawson’s mother, Carolyn, played on the first women’s basketball team at USC in 1966.

Lawson’s older sister, Erika, plays volleyball for Pepperdine, and a younger sister, Mandi, a sophomore, plays volleyball at Mira Costa. Lawson also has a 4-year-old sister, Hayley, who likes to play soccer in the family kitchen, according to Carolyn Lawson.

Hurdling came naturally for Lawson, who mastered the three-step technique between hurdles in her freshman year. Her best time is 15.2 seconds, set in Thursday’s dual meet victory over Redondo.


“She has tremendous quickness and is real fast out of the blocks,” Egan said. “Her jumping ability and speed make (hurdling) real natural for her.”

However, the long jump and the triple jump are Lawson’s best chances to win a Southern Section championship.

Lawson’s 19-1 long jump ranks third in the state this season behind Marion Jones of Thousand Oaks (20-9 1/4) and Amy Littlepage of Mt. Miguel (19-1 1/2). The top mark in the triple jump is Tamieka Porter of Orange Glen (40-6 1/4).

“In (Division III) at this time, she has to be one of the favorites based on her marks,” Egan said. “In the triple jump, she’ll probably finish in the top three.”

Lawson is looking ahead to the Southern Section divisional meets.

“(Mira Costa) has a wall of records, and they hang a banner for CIF champions,” she said. “Hopefully my name will be on it.”

Although Lawson’s primary sport is volleyball, Egan feels the 5-foot-5 outside hitter has a better future in track.


“She lacks height, though she is a great leaper,” Egan said. “She hits the ball hard, but in college she’ll be playing against girls who are quite a bit taller.”

Lawson said her 34-inch vertical leap makes up for her lack of height, which forced her to come up with a unique approach to earn a scholarship.

Lawson’s mother videotaped many of her games, and Lawson put together a personal highlight video that she sent out to schools. She said the video helped persuade college coaches that she could compete against taller girls.

“With my vertical leap, I get just as high as all the other girls,” Lawson said.

Lawson works out at her own pace during track season, using a workout program from Egan as a guideline.

“I spend more time with the other kids that really need help,” Egan said. “She’s not a real hard worker, but she does what’s expected of her. She’s able to get a lot out of the time she spends on the track.”

Lawson said she likes the fact that track has individual and team aspects.

“I like to do my own workout individually, because everyone is at a different stage,” Lawson said. “Once I get a good jump or two in at practice, I usually don’t need any more.”


Egan said Lawson’s intensity during meets will be an advantage for her once the sectionals start.

“The best thing about her is that she is the type of competitor who rises to the occasion,” Egan said. “She’s not always at her best in practice, but once the meet starts she gets excited.”