Track Star + English Major = UMES Love Story

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2019
    Shaneka and Clayton Nichols Class of 1997

    UMES Homecoming 2019 theme: There is no place like home.

    This is true for Clayton Nichols, an Ocean City native, and Shaneka Schoolfield Nichols of Berlin. The Stephen Decatur High School graduates have known each other since the sixth grade in Worcester County and their story would continue on campus at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

    Clayton ('97), a cross country / track star and art education major, says his mother influenced his decision to attend school close to home. Mother does know best. Shaneka ('97) sought to make her own mark, following family members who also attended the university dating back to its Maryland State College days.

    “He was an athlete … so you know, they can be kind of cocky. I'm also a 'Type  A' person,” Shaneka said.

    In explaining how their relationship came to be, Shaneka described herself as outgoing and let it be known among her friends she would be the one to date Clayton.

    “Every time I turned a corner, she was peeping around a door,” Clayton said as they laughed together.

    The couple poke fun at their different recollections about shared experiences, such as “Remember, you told me you had a girlfriend when I first asked you out on a date?,” Shaneka said.

    “I didn't have a girlfriend,” Clayton insisted with a chuckle. “I said no because I was pledging” Phi Beta Sigma fraternity ('95).

    The campus buzzed about Clayton the athlete who often was referred to good-naturedly as UMES' “Forrest Gump” for his obsession with running. “He would run on Backbone Road to Salisbury on any given day,” Shaneka said.

    Nichols Family

    As an undergraduate, Nichols set the university record for the fastest time (30:34) running a 10-kilometer course in the 1994 MEAC conference championship for cross country. He was inducted in the UMES Hall of Fame in 2014 when he was still second overall in the MEAC conference record book.

    Reflecting on their college days, Shaneka defines “Hawk Pride” as meaning “family.”

    “Some of the people I met my first week at UMES are lifelong friends,” she said. “These are people who will be in my life for a long time - including my husband.”

    The Nichols' family would begin on campus; one of their six children (3 boys and 3 girls) was born during their junior year. Shaneka and Clayton tied the knot in 1997.

    “Clayton and I have been on this crazy road for about 24 years,” Shaneka estimated. “It hasn't always been easy, but there is no other person I would want to travel this path with than him.”

    Mrs. Nichols is a commercial insurance agent and Mr. Nichols owns a local construction company and is also employed by Skydive OC.

    By Tahja Cropper