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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Darya Mikusova: Hurdling to the Top

Darya Mikusova 24’ has lofty goals for her final season. 


Darya has cemented herself in the Dickinson record books multiple times throughout the year. Her numbers speak for themselves. She is one of the most successful Dickinson track athletes ever. 

Mikusova won the Centennial Conference Track Athlete of the week award two weeks in a row. During those weeks, she broke the Centennial Conference record in the 400 meter hurdles and broke her own school record for the 100 meter hurdles.


The senior had a unique start to her running career. She did not start running track until her junior year of high school. She says, “I didn’t really have a past of running. I just, was generally pretty good at it. I always enjoyed it. So I figured I should join the track team because it was like, easy, right? Like, It was just running. And then I got pretty good, but I didn’t really try.”


Running in college wasn’t a big goal for her. It was more something that just happened. She says, “it was something I wasn’t planning on doing, but it was like, why not, when I had the opportunity to do it.”


It seems like Darya’s mentality about track was the same for a while. She thought, I’m good at it and like it, so she continued to do it, but it was not something that was serious in her life. This mindset continued as she started her Dickinson career. She says, “freshman year, I just wasn’t locked in. It didn’t mean much to me to win races or just do well.”


Darya’s feelings switched during her sophomore outdoor season and she has never looked back. She says, “I was like, Okay. You can do great things if you actually try and push yourself.” 


I was curious about what led to the sudden mentality switch. She says, “Sophomore year, I ran a race in the same way I always would. And I did really well. Randomly, I was top 20 ranked.” She makes it clear that she was, of course, still trying, but she wasn’t thinking about wanting to beat a record or do anything more than just run a good race. After that race, howe she was inspired to think, “what can I do if I actually put my mind to it? And really focus on everything even outside of track. Like hydrating, eating good, sleeping good and I did. And then, yeah, I qualified for nationals and ever since then I was like, on to the next thing, just keep going.” 


Darya constantly evolved as a runner and as a person. She said, “I’m a different athlete and person than I was freshman year. I’m definitely more confident and I’ve matured so much. I’ve done better at not being hard on myself about one bad race. I’m proud of how far I’ve come with how I treat myself and how I approach racing. Compared to freshman year me where I didn’t really care and the sophomore and even junior year me who really built myself up… I’ve come a long way.”


Mikusova spent a lot of time working on herself and it paid off. Her journey is so interesting. Her description of how she found the way beyond, first, not caring that much and, then, not knowing how to be nice to herself when she struggled or didn’t do as well as she wanted, was very moving. 


Mikusova found a new level of success this year. She won her last three 400m hurdles races handily. A normal D3 race is not much of a challenge for her. 

“I usually don’t get much competition. It’s hard for me to push myself when I’m running alone.” 


The numbers back this up. A couple weeks ago, her one minute one second time was almost eight seconds better than the second place finisher. It’s hard to exaggerate  how dominant and impressive Mikusova can be in her normal event. She absolutely blew the competition out of the water. To have such a large margin of victory in a relatively short race is absurd. Darya’s confidence is clearly warranted. 


Two weeks ago, she ran in an event with D1 runners. It was in this race that she destroyed both her personal best and the Centennial Conference record for the 400 hurdles. She said, “usually I’m going into the race knowing that I’m probably going to win, and where’s the fun in that? There was a girl in front of me which made it so much different.” 


She described how difficult it is to hit that extra gear when she is alone at the front. That wasn’t an issue at this meet. 


“Competition is good and since I don’t usually face competition, I made the best of it. It’s nice to know that even when under pressure, I can still come through. It was nice to have someone to push me and not have to push myself.”


The race was a great precursor to nationals for Mikusova. That race will be very competitive. For the second straight year, Mikusova qualified for nationals. In her junior year, she came just short of advancing to the finals. She finished ninth, with the best time in the preliminary race of anyone who didn’t advance. She ran an excellent race and broke her personal record, but it was not quite enough. She said, “when I looked up at the board I was destroyed…It’s still on my mind at all times.”


She has not shied away from that disappointment and has, in fact, embraced it. She claims it only motivated her to work harder and get stronger for this year. She called it, “one of the most defining experiences of my track career.” and added “it was heartbreaking but it made me a better athlete.”


In last year’s race at the nationals, the first nine runners all broke their personal best times. Mikusova had to deal with knowing she ran a great race, accepting it wasn’t enough that day. The heartbreak from that day fueled a new fire for her and she has hit a new level this year because of the extra work she has put in due to that defeat.  


I was interested whether Darya is able to ground herself in each race with the goal of nationals always in her head. She explained that having a consistent race plan really helps and that she is making a point to not look into the future. 


“This season I’m focused on taking it one race at a time.” 


I was curious what all the records and awards meant for her. 

“With a PR, you know you are doing something right.”

Mikusova discussed that awards and breaking records feel good, but she has to stay motivated and not get complacent. 

“It’s also about redefining success. What’s your next goal? You can’t sit around for weeks celebrating a broken record. It’s nice and it’s a confidence boost but you can’t just sit on it. It has to be and now what?”


Mikusova has worked hard to find the right mentality, effort and work rate throughout her time at Dickinson. Now she has put it all together. All that’s left is for her to do what she knows she can at nationals. 


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