Get to know Daniel Nixon by clicking on the video as he talks about track, family, faith and his thoughts on the upcoming outdoor season.
Spain Park Indoor Track
Spain Park High School’s Daniel Nixon dashed to a second individual Class 7A 800-meter title at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Feb. 5.
As he surged in to the bell lap of the Class 7A 800-meter indoor state final on Feb. 5, Spain Park senior Daniel Nixon faced a season-defining decision.
Trailing his fiercest competitor, Mountain Brook’s Drew Williams, by a stride’s length with only 200 meters to go, he could either make his move or stay settled in second.
To Nixon, the defending 800 state champion, the choice was clear. After months of preparation—early morning runs, grueling interval sessions, core and weight workouts—he had simply worked too hard to come this far and lose.
“I knew that was my moment to go, so I had to go get it,” Nixon said.
With fluid arm swing and powerful stride, Nixon motored down the backstretch, leaned into the final curve and unleashed a furious kick in the closing 50 meters, holding off Williams by a tenth of a second to claim his second individual state title.
What’s more, his blistering time of 1 minute, 55.51 seconds set a new state meet record and represented the fastest mark of the indoor season by an Alabama prep runner.
“I just told myself this is it. This is my last race indoors [in my] senior year at Spain Park High School, running in high school, so I knew that I had to leave it all on the track,” Nixon said.
For someone who finished dead last in his first state meet appearance in 2014, the progression
has come full circle—twice.
As a middle schooler at John Herbert Phillips Academy in downtown Birmingham, Nixon’s mid-distance career originally began like so many others at the youth level. As punishment for dropping the baton in a relay, Nixon’s coach relegated him to running an 800.
“It didn’t feel too good, but it wasn’t the worst,” Nixon said.
Although the blunder-induced penalty was an isolated occurrence, it gave Nixon his first taste of what would eventually become his signature race.
Triggered by his family’s move to the Hoover area following eighth grade, Nixon enrolled at Spain Park in the fall of 2012 for the start of his freshman year, joining the football, basketball and track teams upon his arrival.
A tri-sport athlete as a ninth-grader and 10th-grader, he primarily focused on the sprints during outdoor track season, further developing his innate speed.
That’s until, during the spring of his sophomore campaign, head track and field coach Michael Zelwak urged Nixon to attempt an 800.
In his first time running the event since middle school, he notched a time of 2:03.34, placing ninth against some of the state’s top competition at the Vestavia Hills King of the Mountain Invitational.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s pretty good,’ especially coming off of doing sprinting things and not even doing what everybody else in my area had been doing,” Nixon said.
Instantly converted, Nixon shifted his energy and attention to the mid-distance events.
A testament to his talent, he sealed a trip to Gulf Shores less than two months later, qualifying for the Class 6A state meet.
His trip to the coast, however, didn’t go as planned. Nixon’s relative inexperience revealing itself, he crossed the line in 23rd place to finish dead last.
“I had no clue what was going on down there, but I used that and trained hard the whole next season,” Nixon said.
After deciding to step away from football and basketball prior to his junior year in order to fully pursue track, Nixon’s investment paid off.
Following a third-place finish in the 800 at the 2015 7A indoor state meet, he roared to a statement-making victory at last spring’s outdoor state championship. Presented with a shot at redemption, Nixon rolled to a time of 1:54.49, capturing his inaugural state title.
“I just knew I had to go out there and trust God and do the best I could,” Nixon said. “It felt great.”
Still navigating the college recruitment process, Nixon, backed by his faith, family and coach, will be training for a third straight crown in his premier event this spring.
“If he continues to work hard and does what’s asked of him and obviously can stay injury-free, I think he’s capable of going low-1:50s, no question,” Zelwak said. “He has that ability.”