Making The Adjustments From A High School To College Distance Runner (Part 2)

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Making The Adjustments From A High School To College Distance Runner (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my interview with one of my college clients, Mara White.  (Here is part 1). Today she is going to talk about how she got noticed for a college scholarship, the biggest difference between high school and college athletes, and what she would do differently if she had to do it all over again.  Enjoy.

Mara WhiteAK: Explain your college selection process.  Did you always know you wanted to run in college?  How did you decide on Belmont?  How did you get noticed?

MW: I don’t remember a time in which it wasn’t a goal to get a scholarship and run in college.  As soon as I saw success in my first season my freshman year I never looked back.  Sense the start it was never a question of whether or not I would continue my career collegiately but rather where.

My sophomore year I ran 5:01 for the mile at the OHSAA state championships and earned all-Ohio honors.  Times are posted so all college coaches were able to see this performance.  This race is what put my name out there.  Recruiting runners is much easier than most other sports.  Every time you race your times are posted somewhere on the internet.  A coach can very easily find all of a runners stats online.

My college decision process was nothing short of a nightmare.  After talking to and visiting a few schools I had decided that I wanted to attend West Point, and the coach there assured me that if I came and visited and fell in love with it that he could get me there.  Well after about 4 separate medical exams it came back that I had been disqualified because of asthma and would not be able to attend the academy, or serve in the Military.  So in mid-May I had called up my next favorite school which happened to be Belmont University.

Belmont was my Hail Mary pass. It was the middle of May, signing day was about twelve weeks earlier, and I had nowhere to go to school.  I am so lucky that I was welcomed with open arms at the very last minute.  I love Belmont for its small family team atmosphere.  I am not by any means a number, and that is very important to me. I also really value the private education.  The class sizes are very small and each of my professors know who I am.  I still get to run at the Division I level against the big state schools, but I get the small school atmosphere.  Not to mention I love country music so the downtown Nashville location was a little bonus.

AK: Do you think working with us helped you prepare for the demands of your sport at the collegiate level?

MW: It’s often not very common for a distance runner to lift.  I definitely came in with a good sense of how to use a weight room and how to lift properly.  I was used to working out at least twice a day in high school because I would practice with my HS team and then come workout with you so that wasn’t much of an adjustment.

AK: What has your training been while in college for cross country/track (whether by yourself or with your team)?  Lifting, speed work, etc.  Was it similar to some of the work you did with us or different?

MW: Well unfortunately I haven’t really trained too much because of my injuries. But as a team we do no speed/agility type stuff, also no plyos. As far as the lifting goes it is very comparable. Core and leg focused with some arm stuff thrown in from time to time. I would say though that lifting with you was more intense than the lifts I have done thus far.

AK: What has been the biggest difference between high school and college athletics?

MW: In high school I would maybe have one other teammate that was at the same training level as myself.  In college now I have 10 other girls who are there to run with me and push me.  It’s an amazing feeling.  College is obviously much more intense.  At the high school level there may be one or two studs in a race. At the DI college level every girl racing was that stud in high school.  In high school your top girls go to run collegiately.  In college your top girls go to the Olympics.

AK: If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently in high school to better prepare you for your college sport?

MW: I would have been smarter.  I damaged my bones by overtraining at a young age when my bones hadn’t fully developed.  It was very easy my senior year to want to be a successful as I could so I would run as much as I wanted.  I never needed a coach to push me, I need a coach to hold me back some.  So if I would do it over I would just train smarter.  I would focus on the little things like diet that could have made all the difference but when I was younger it wasn’t something I was very knowledgeable on.

AK: When not competing or training, what do you like to do to unwind?

MW: Horses are one of my other passions. I love to ride, maybe even more than I love to run. When I have downtime I just tend to veg out completely. Now that I am in college there is very little free time so if the opportunity ever arises to do absolutely nothing I jump on it any chance I get. I do live in Nashville so we head down to Broadway and go line dancing which is always a good time. We got about ten feet from the stage at a Luke Bryan concert this past fall which was amazing so it’s great to take advantage of those sorts of opportunities in Nashville.

AK: What do you want to do with your life once college is done?

MW: I think law school is my next stop.  I don’t know where yet, but I see myself staying in the south or heading out west maybe.  I will always train, and run as long as my body will let me. Even after my college years are complete I won’t stop being active.  I’ll probably run at least one marathon once my college days are over.  Competing is a part of me so if it isn’t collegiately I am sure I will find somewhere else to channel it, and I’m sure I will keep finding reasons to come bug you.

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