WEST WINDSOR: Pulimood is Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
It was fitting that Nikhil Pulimood’s best race was his last one for the West Windsor-Plainboro South boys track and field team.
The senior had watched the Pirates who came before him run their best as seniors, and he wanted to do the same.
“You’re never going to get another senior year,” Pulimood said. “You want to do your best.”
Pulimood produced his best races as a senior, and capped his final year at WW-P South with an inspirational showing in spring track. His times continued to drop as they had steadily progressed over his career.
“Coach and my teammates are the reason why it’s not that hard,” Pulimood said. “You’re held to a different standard under Coach (Kurt) Wayton. It’s really difficult to peak at the wrong time and slink back. The best Pirate runners raced their best their senior year. That’s been the trend the last 10 years. Since you’re held to such a high standard, it’s hard not to have your best.”
Pulimood built toward his best after strong seasons in cross county and winter track. He came off a nagging injury in the winter to pick up the pace down the stretch of his career. Pulimood posted a career-best 4:12.82 to win the 1,600 meters at the Group IV state championship. He had been fourth at the Central Jersey Group IV 1,600 and took second at the Mercer County Championships. His strength is in the longer distances. He won the 3,200 at Mercer Counties, sectionals and groups which brought him to the Meet of Champions.
“Luke (Petela of Haddon Township) and I agreed we were going to run a certain pace,” Pulimood said. “The race started folding out and Luke was nowhere to be found. Blaise (Ferro) took it out way too slow and he was trying to make us go too slow. I was getting frustrated. It’s my last race of my senior year. I didn’t want to run slow.”
Pulimood went to the front of the pack with no one else willing to push the pace. He nearly held it the entire way before falling to Petela, though Pulimood ran a personal-best by five seconds of 9:00.86 to finish second.
“I can’t be too upset about it,” Pulimood said. “I put everything out there for seven and a half laps. I think I raced probably one of the best races that I’ve ever run. I’m definitely happy about that.
“It’s never really been my thing to sit and kick. I really, really didn’t want to sit in that race at the front. I kind of wanted someone else to take it. I had to change my entire plan in the second lap. I think it’s the smartest I’ve ever raced.”
Nikhil Pulimood is the Princeton Packet Boys Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“He was able to achieve things that I don’t think people would have thought he was capable of achieving,” Wayton said. “I see a lot of Nikhils on other teams and see them run 9:40 and 4:20. He was able to put himself to an elite level.”
Wayton calls Pulimood’s final race “one of the most courageous” that he has seen. Pulimood has shown steady progress through his years. He developed into one of the top runners in the state, and he will continue his career at Duke University.
“I had a lot of people help me along the way,” Pulimood said. “I was really lucky to have those people. What changed was those people came and went and in Timmy (Bason)’s case, he was a junior, so every year I was never really alone in my training. That helped me.”
Even outside of track, Pulimood has a strong support group. His friends, family and church have all helped him develop into the person and runner that he is.
“When you’re surrounded by a really strong circle of support, it’s not too hard,” Pulimood said. “s you get better, you get more support because people start to recognize you more. That’s what has changed over the years. It was a snowball effect. It got bigger and bigger.”
Pulimood has remained a hard-working and humble athlete, one still shocked with how far he has come in his four seasons. Wayton compares him the greatest distance runner in school history, Brian Leung.
“When Brian Leung graduated in 2008, a lot of people said to me, and I might have said a different version of this myself, there will never be another Brian Leung,” Wayton said. “There will also never be another Nikhil Pulimood. His selfless nature, incredible moral fabric and the way he took advantage of this sport to improve himself is a perfect example to future kids in the Pirate program. He believed in what we do as a program. He has total faith in our roadwork to how to get there. It was absolute pleasure to work with him. Some sheep are harder to herd than others. I feel like Nikhil was walking hand in hand with the shepherd and was able to accomplish some great things.”
Pulimood is hopeful that he has the same sort of success in the future as he goes to the next level.
“Brian is definitely the hardest working runner that I know beside Coach,” Pulimood said. “It’s ridiculous to be mentioned in the same sentence as him. He achieved so much. I hope I can achieve that in college. It wasn’t even about his high school career, he became an All-American in college.”
Pulimood is looking to make the top seven for Duke’s cross country team. With a strong group of veterans returning, it won’t be easy, but Pulimood can’t be counted out of the mix.
“A lot of people give up,” Wayton said. “He doesn’t have that in his vocabulary. He’s proof if you do that over time and shrug off failures, you’re going be a success. He’s a perfect ambassador for not only our team but the sport of distance running.
“Such a large slice of the success pie is grunt work,” he added. “People don’t want to put in the time. A lot of people look for shortcuts. There are no shortcuts if you want to be truly great in this sport. He was able to really capitalize on the training aspects to allow him to succeed, and competition aspects that allowed him to succeed, and he wanted a good relationship with the coaching staff.”
Pulimood believes in a right way to live and to train, and he stuck with a plan that worked. It helped make him one of the best runners in the state and among the best in the ever in program history. It’s the sort of ending he had always wanted.
“I’m definitely happy with my times,” Pulimood said. “I finished high school with a lot of good times. I’m really happy with my mile and my two-mile wasn’t that bad. Looking back on it, I’m happy with it. But I still kind of wanted more, but I guess it’s a little greedy.”