Runnin' Devil Style

July 11, 2001

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Note: Every Wednesday, I'll be writing a regular column about my experience as a Sun Devil Cross Country and Track runner. In each article, I'll attempt to bring you a first-hand account of what it's like to be a Sun Devil Student-Athlete and to run for one of the top programs in the country. Last week, I stressed the important role fans play in our success and shared with you the top 10 reasons to be a Sun Devil Cross Country fan. In this installment, I'll discuss what the transition of going from high school to college athletics is like.

Nothing compares to the thrill of freshman year of college. For many students, it's the first chance they have to be on their own, a time marked by great change and new opportunities. Yet, the transition from high school to college is not without its share of challenges and struggles, and a student-athlete's life is no exception. In fact, the demands a student-athlete faces in terms of training, time commitment, and responsibility are significantly greater than high school athletics.

One of the biggest changes in moving to college athletics is the increased intensity of training. The competition at a Division I school is extremely challenging when compared to the high school level. Many times you are competing against athletes who excelled nationally in high school. As a result, you have to train harder and longer. For example, the days of running twenty-five miles a week no longer exist, replaced instead by weeks of 50 miles or more. In order to be successful, you will have to run every day, at a much faster training pace. Personally, this was one of the hardest adjustments for me, because in high school I was the fastest runner on my team. Now, I have the advantage of training partners and teammates that push me and help me take my running to the next level!

Another notable difference between high school and college athletics is the time commitment. Like a job, a student-athlete is expected to attend class and practice every day, with a willingness to work hard and a desire to be the best. Practice is NOT optional, and our lives are a constant balancing act between school and athletics. Aside from practice, class, and studying, our free time is extremely limited. For this reason, to play collegiate sports, you have to possess a lot of dedication and desire. You also have to be willing to put in the time to improve your performance. This means not only going to practice, but doing all the little things (i.e. eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep) that make the extra bit of difference. Practices typically last three hours, sometimes more, depending on the sport. And this does not include the time set aside to weight train, get treatment in the sports medicine department, and attend team meetings. The bottom line is you truly have to love the sport you play to continue competing in college.

In terms of academics, college utilizes a much different format than high school. Although you spend less time in class, the amount of time spent studying and reading out-of-class increases. Therefore, you must learn to pace yourself to get work done on time. Teachers usually don't formally assign homework, but it is common for most classes to require a couple of longer written assignments each semester. Basically, the most important rule for success is to attend class. It sounds really simple, yet the number of students who skip class is surprising. By going to class, taking good notes, paying attention, and doing the assigned work, you'll ensure your success.

College is an exciting time, and with that excitement comes the reality and responsibility of being on your own. Ultimately, it's how you handle your independence that determines your success. In a campus of over 45,000 people, this means avoiding the temptations that constantly surround you. As a student-athlete, this responsibility goes one step further. Not only do we have a responsibility to ourselves, we have a responsibility to our team, ASU athletics, and the university. We are expected to be role models and exceed the standards of the average student. As a result, we have to be smart in the decisions we make and disciplined in the way we live our lives.

As the anticipation and excitement of my sophomore year at ASU builds, I look back on my freshman year and the adjustments I faced in going from high school to college athletics. The past year has taught me many things about myself as a student, an athlete, and a person, and I am smarter today because of these experiences. So, as a 'wise' sophomore, my advice to high school athletes thinking about playing college sports would be this:

1. Be passionate about your sport! Play college athletics because YOU want to- not because your parents or coaches want to see you continue. Play college sports because YOU truly LOVE stepping out on the track or field everyday and imagining the endless possibilities.

2. Be willing to work longer and harder than you ever thought possible. Dedicate yourself to being the best athlete you can be, and be willing to put in the time and effort to improve.

3. Learn to balance your studies with your life! The main reason you come to college is to get an education, so prioritize your time accordingly. (And yes, it is possible to get really good grades and be an excellent athlete at the same time).

4. Stay healthy! Eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of your body. Most times, if you truly listen to what your body is telling you, you can avoid injuries and illness. And finally...

5. Know that you'll experience many rewards from playing college athletics. The knowledge that you are doing your best, making lifelong teammates and friendships, and representing the ASU community make all the challenges and struggles worth every bit of work. I love running cross country and track for ASU, and I can only hope that no matter what decision you make, your freshman year and college experience is as memorable as mine has been!

A little bit about me:
In the fall, I'll begin my sophomore year academically and my freshman year athletically (You may ask how I'm in two years at one time. Well, this past year I was red-shirted in order to preserve four years of my eligibility. Basically, this means that I ran in a limited number of events and did not represent ASU in competition). My primary event during track was the 1500m. I have lived in Tempe now for the past nine years and am a graduate of Corona del Sol High School. At ASU, I am majoring in broadcast journalism, with plans to become a news anchor or sports reporter in the future.

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