Nikki Hiltz added to a history-making USA Track and Field indoor title, and being the first nonbinary national champ in the sport, by snagging another title in a record-breaking win at the USATF Road 1-mile championship event in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday.
Hiltz used a blistering opening quarter mile, continuous surges mid-race, and strong finishing kick to outlast 2022 USATF Outdoor 1500 meter champion Sinclaire Johnson at 4 minutes, 27.97 seconds. The mark is an event record and the win is the second road 1-mile title for the reigning indoor 1,500 meter national champion and six-time NCAA All-American. They also won this event in 2019.
Hiltz said a key to their win was massive support they received by fans waving rainbow pride flags along the course. “The amount of pride flags really brought me home,” they said in a post-race interview with Citius Mag.
They followed up on that thought with a post on Instagram:
I can confidently say that the amount of pride flags I saw along yesterday’s course, especially on the home stretch, is exactly what gave me that extra gear to pull away for the win with about 50 meters to go ️⚧️ ️
Thank you Des Moines for all the cheers, post race chats, photos, and hugs, and for making me feel seen and safe in a state where it’s hard to feel that as a trans person lately.
For anyone who doesn’t know, in 2023 alone more than 435 anti-trans bills have been introduced across 44 states with Iowa being one of the worst for trans youth.
To the Iowa LGBTQ+ community, this fight is far from over. They’ve thrown everything they can at you yet you’re still here, because no one can erase who you are, no matter how hard they try ❤️Keep showing up. Keep being seen. Keep fighting. We see you, we love you, and we need you.
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once. But don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.“ - Michelle Obama (and my moms pre-race quote for me before yesterdays mile)
Hiltz, who came out as transgender and nonbinary in November 2020, was unsure if they would race in Iowa because of the anti-LGBTQ laws that have been passed this year. Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed bills that limit gender-affirming health care, banned transgender students from participating in school athletics and a law that prohibits discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools.
They made decision to take the start Tuesday, and contest the 1,500 meters at the iconic Drake Relays this weekend as a show of support to LGBTQ Iowans. “Trans people live in Iowa and they deserve access to healthcare and access to sports,” Hiltz said. “It meant more being in a state where there is so much hateful legislation.”
“To me, queer people in the community were so grateful and thankful I was here,” they continued. “I’m grateful to them. They are the ones being here and living here and fighting back.”
The win Tuesday was the continuation of a strong start to their outdoor season. Last weekend, Hiltz put up a career best 800-meter effort at 1:59.03 to win at the Bryan Clay Invitational in California. They said their goals for the year are to race, win, and take the opportunity to speak up in tenuous times for an entire community.