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Matt Sampson Blog: College Running Insight Posted on December 03, 2013



Senior year of high school was an amazing year for me.  With tackling the SATs early and taking on a light course load, I was free to enjoy my last year of high school and put more focus into training.  I had always been serious about my running, but finally seeing some success on the track at the end of my junior year brought a new level of desire and drive to see how far I could go in this sport.  Having a dad who ran in college (and still runs when he can) and having an older brother who ran for a Division III school, I received tremendous support from my family.  Mom and Dad were my biggest cheerleaders at my meets.

As the fall cross country season progressed, I reached out to college coaches all over the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York area.  I was never the best cross country runner; track was where my real value lied.  And that’s what I told coaches.  I let them know how hard I was willing to work and what my realistic goals were for the upcoming track season, specifically in the 800m and 1600m.  Some coaches expressed interest and some didn’t.  

With a team that consisted of many recreational athletes and a handful of dedicated runners, I spent most of my time training with the latter.  We put in many miles running all around our coastal community and surrounding towns.  Not having big parks or trails in the area, running on the boardwalk was always a peaceful, scenic place for me to do my runs.  My teammates and I pushed each other in workouts on our prehistoric 330 meter cinder track.  If you could hit times on that, it made you feel like you were flying once you spiked up on a real, modern track.

In the indoor season, I was able to drop some time in the 800.  With breaking the two minute barrier and qualifying for the New Jersey Meet of Champions, I received more attention from college coaches.  Getting my time down to 1:56 at the end of the outdoor season, I knew I had to continue running competitively in college.  Coming from a small high school without any heavy training regimen, I knew I could do better and isn’t that what this whole sport is about?  Other than competing against a slew of other young guys in similarly short shorts, you are competing against yourself to see how hard you can push yourself to test the limits of you can physically do.  

Deciding to run at the collegiate level was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  All my best friends I’ve made at school are on the team.  It is great to be able to run with a group of guys who share your dedication to being the best athletes they can possibly be.  Having my teammates there makes it much easier to survive each grueling long run and each gut wrenching workout.  I have also developed a great relationship with my coach.  Coach Hamer has been tremendous in not only developing my athletic talents, but acting as a great mentor in offering a world of wisdom as I get older and prepare to take on the real world in a short matter of time.

As a senior, I’m starting to reach the end of the road in my collegiate running.  I’m so fortunate to have met so many great people throughout my running career through different teammates, coaches, and runners all over the East coast.  If anyone is not sure about running in college, I strongly recommend doing so.  Although it hasn’t been easy balancing school with running, the experience has been truly worth it.  Dedicating yourself to academics and athletics will prepare you for life after college when you are faced with many responsibilities that come with being an independent adult.  Despite collegiate running being nearly over for me, the journey is far from over.  Although I may not continue to train at such an intense level, I plan to continue running for as long as I can.


*Matt is a senior on the Rider University Men's Cross Country and Track and Field team. Follow him on twitter @DirkSampson*


by Mark Spewak

1 Comment

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