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My first collegiate cross country season was filled with highlights from running at Big 10's, Pre-Nationals, Regionals, and so many other great races. However, my favorite moment by far came from an invitational hosted by Loyola University. As I was pushing up the largest hill on the course, the song "Touch the Sky" by Kanye West was playing, and right at the top there was a great view of the Chicago skyline. For a second, I forgot I was racing and just appreciated the really cool moment. Times and medals come and go, but I think holding on to little memories like that one make the collegiate experience all the more worthwhile.
2) Discuss the transition from high school competition to competing at the college level. What adjustments did you have to make in order to be as successful as possible?
You have to be prepared to not be the big dog anymore, at least not at first. In high school, you can become numb to success. Placing top three every race can become routine. Then, all of a sudden, you're thrown into a much bigger pond. I would be breaking my high school PR through the 5k and still be towards the back of the pack. I'm still learning and making adjustments, but the biggest takeaway so far is that you have to work harder than you've ever worked before to be successful.
(Nick Regas advises that incoming freshmen need to brace themselves for the enhanced level of competition that they'll encounter in the college ranks).
3) Tell us about your training regimen by giving a general overview of what goes into getting prepared for your next big event.
Right now, the next big event is the upcoming cross country season. I've been establishing a strong base with summer mileage. In high school, I maxed out at around 60 miles. Now (coming into my sophomore season), I'm working to hit around 75. However, every runner is different and your coach will know the right amount for you. I've also been lifting, really hitting core, and hopping in some local road races to stay competitive. I'm lucky to have a lot of teammates (past and present) to train with in Northeast Ohio, so I've been getting some pretty good runs in. Additionally, I've been working on nutrition, which I've come to learn is very important in order to fuel your body for heavy mileage.
4) What athletic-based goals do you hope to accomplish during this upcoming year?
Personally, I've been working hard this summer to break 25 minutes in the 8k. However, I'm much more focused on what we can do as a team this year than what I can do as an individual. We're hosting the Big 10 Championship in Columbus this cross country season, so there is a lot of extra motivation. We had a few injuries and an overall pretty rough past season, so we are really excited at the chance to improve as a team and prove some people wrong on our home course.
The best advice I could give would be to listen to your coaches and do all of the little things. That includes rolling out, stretching, icing, and most importantly: nutrition. Dining halls are a new and exciting experience for many incoming freshmen, and while there are many healthy choices, there are also a lot of unhealthy ones. After a long run, unlimited hamburgers, fries, and ice cream can look pretty good. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way (via an iron deficiency) that when you eat poorly, your body can't keep up with the workload. Remember to always eat your vegetables.
Academically, I've found that if you're self-motivated, adding an online class here and there can be very helpful. You work on your own time, you can work from just about anywhere, and they typically aren't anymore challenging than the class would be in person. I used online classes such as Human Nutrition, History of Rock and Roll, etc. to fill some general education credits. I wouldn't recommend scheduling too many, but with a heavy practice schedule, they can make a positive difference and free up some time.
Overall, make sure you're still having fun and enjoying the sport. Work hard and compete seriously, but joke with your teammates, enjoy the little moments, and have a great time. If you're doing that, then collegiate cross country and track can be an amazing experience.