Athlete Feature 01 - Andrew Lemoncello - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 01 – Andrew Lemoncello

andrewlemoncello

For our first featured athlete, we were delighted to be able to speak to Great Britain Olympian and NCAA Steeplechase Runner up Andrew Lemoncello. Andrew attended Florida State University from 2004 to 2007 after graduating from Stirling University in 2004.

Since graduating, Andrew has remained in the US and now trains as a professional marathon runner in Flagstaff, Arizona. He was Britains fastest marathon runner in 2010 and now has his sights set firmly on qualifying for his second Olympic team in 2012. Read his Power of 10 profile here.

tbUSA – You graduated from Stirling University in the UK in 2004, what then made you decide to go the US?

AL – I always wanted to go to the States with so much of my family living there. I think I did the right thing for me by staying in the UK for a little while and then going to the states as I had matured a little more and learned what kind of training worked for me through a lot of trial and error in training on my own at Stirling. I had a few opportunities presented to me to go to the states in my second year at Stirling but I figured that it would be best to finish my degree first and then go over.

tbUSA – Can you talk a bit about the recruiting process, how did you end up at FSU and what admissions criteria did you have to fulfill?

AL – I ended up at FSU because I got on really well with Coach Braman, I liked his training philosophies and I took a visit there and was extremely impressed with the facilities. My old training partner in St Andrews, Vicky Gill had gone to FSU and became a very good runner so that helped me solidify my decision. I didn’t have much to do for admissions as I already had a degree that meant I didn’t have to take the SAT’s or anything.

tbUSA – Did you do much independent research about where you were going before heading out to the US?

AL – I did a lot of research before I left. I had quite a few options for what universities to go to but eventually decided on FSU because it felt right. I have heard of all these nightmare stories of people going to the USA and getting burnt out from too much racing but I talked to coaches about racing schedules and there weren’t a lot that wanted you to race a lot. I see people coming over here without doing any research and just picking the first place that offers them a spot. I looked at everything from the current team to what the school records were so that I could get a measure of how good the program and coach would be. There are a few universities that are known for recruiting UK athletes (FSU, Butler, New Mexico etc) but what people don’t realise is that coaches move around and some of the programs aren’t the same as a few years previous and you need to know this so you don’t make the wrong decisions.

tbUSA – Was FSU your only major consideration or did you look at other schools?

AL – FSU really did fit all of my needs so I didn’t have to make too hard a choice. I had emailed a lot of schools to see what my options were and talked to coaches and I was happiest with FSU.

tbUSA – Having attended university in both the UK and the US, what similarities or differences did you find between the two systems?

AL – The USA puts so much more into their sports than in the UK. Everything is centred around you being as professional as possible and to be the best athlete you can be as well as completing your school work. In the UK it seems like your options are limited unless you are the very best. I went from a 8.48 and 29.56 athlete to 8.30 and 28.48 in one year because I had top class competition every time I raced and top class coaches and support to be a better athlete. I also preferred the way of life in the USA. People understood what it meant to pursue a sport and represent the university.

tbUSA – Whilst at FSU, you studied for a degree in Sports Management. Were you satisfied with the standard of academics and do you feel that a US degree adds value to your CV?

AL – I found the classes fairly easy in the USA but thats probably more to do with me picking a degree that I knew a lot about and I knew it wasn’t going to be too challenging. Looking back at it I should have gone into a masters program instead of doing another undergraduate degree but naively, I told myself that I was going over to the USA to run, not to study. I think it does add to my CV mainly because I have stayed in the USA and will be here the rest of my life.

tbUSA – How would you rate your overall US college experience? Did you get involved in much outside of running? What was your most memorable highlight?

AL – I loved almost everything about the USA system. It gave me a taste of what the professional athlete life would be like and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue running as a job without going to the states. I wasn’t super outgoing whilst I was at uni because a lot of friends were going out drinking and partying, which I did partake in a certain times of the year, but I wanted to give running my everything for the 3 years I was there.

My highlight would be coming 2nd in the NCAA champs in my final race for the school and us winning the team championship. I was quite sad to be finished but it was a great stepping stone to becoming a professional runner.

tbUSA – What advice would you offer to athletes considering the US collegiate system?

AL – Do your research. The nightmare stories come from the people who just accepted the first offer that came along. Not every coach is good and not every school is a good fit. I remember getting an email asking my advice on a university that was recruiting this person. The uni didn’t have a track, only had 4 people on the team and it was also a NAIA school, not NCAA. If you want the highest competition you want to be in a NCAA Division 1 school, not D2 (although there are good running schools in this division), D3 or NAIA because the depth just isn’t there. ¬†Look at the climate of the area too. I chose Florida State because I would have good weather year round.

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