BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - AUGUST 19: Nikki Hiltz of Team United States looks on after competing in Heat 1 of Women's 1500m during day one of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre on August 19, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. | Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Nikki Hiltz continued charting a new course for transgender and non-binary athletes in track and field as they competed in the 1500-meter semi-finals of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

This race was their next step after winning their first US National Championships title back in June.

They finished third in their heat but then ended up in 11th place in their semi-final with a time of 4:00.84 and missed qualifying for the final.

While they expressed disappointment with their personal result, they also realized that one of the factors in their finish was an influx of talented runners in the 1500m event.

“I just ran four flat and finished last. This event has leveled up and it’s incredible,” they observed to the assembled media.

The results backed up their assertion as Hiltz’s semi-final featured great performances from elite runners like Faith Kipyegon from Kenya.

Nikki Hiltz smiles before their World Athletics Championship heat on Saturday.

Despite their disappointment, Hiltz appeared to be focusing on all they had already accomplished. In a tweet following the race, they reflected on a note they had written themselves after their triumph at the National Championships.

“And remember, before the race has even started, you’ve already won,” they wrote.

“You get to wake up every day and do the sport you love. You live and train in a beautiful mountain town.

“You have a dog, a partner, a family, training partners, a coach, and an entire community of queer people who love and support you no matter what.”

In addition to their considerable accomplishments on the track, Hiltz appears to be a champion when it comes to perspective.

As if to underscore their support, Hiltz’s partner and fellow LGBTQ runner Emma Gee posted her own message of Pride on Instagram.

“Congratulations to @nikkihiltz on competing so awesome in a great semifinal race — ugh, I’m just such a big Nikki Hiltz fan,” she enthused. Gee added a clapping hands emoji that also served to speak for all LGBTQ sports fans.

Following the race, Hiltz made it clear what their next goal was: qualifying for a trip to Paris in 2024 and representing their communities at the Olympic Games.

“I feel like it’s the one box I haven’t checked yet,” they declared. “I have an American record, I’m a US champ… I think it’s the next thing.” (Hiltz broke the American record for the women’s mile in July with a time of 4:16.35.)

According to a profile by The New York Times’ Talya Minsberg, Hiltz has hopes to pursue gender-affirming care in the future.

For the next few months, though, they have narrowed their focus on attempting to qualify for the Paris Games and that means ensuring that they comply with World Athletics regulations for trans athletes.

“Right now, competing in the women’s category still feels OK for me and my gender and where I’m at with that journey,” they explained.

“But the second it doesn’t, I’m not going to sacrifice myself for my sport. I’m going to choose the relationship with myself before my relationship with track and field.”

They are still motivated by being a trailblazer for the trans and non-binary communities. As they wrote to themself following their National Championships win, “Go be the representation you needed when you were younger. I’m positive there’s a kid out there who needs you now.”

If all goes according to Hiltz’s plan, next year, many of those kids will get to see them running in Paris.