Athlete Feature 07 - Lucy Yates - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 07 – Lucy Yates


This week we spoke with University of Utah athlete Lucy Yates. The 800m specialist is currently mid way through her collegiate career and has enjoyed success both sides of the Atlantic. In 2010 she qualified for her first NCAA Outdoor Championship and then went on to win the AAA U23 800m title in the same year. She is currently preparing for the collegiate cross country season. (Lucy’s Powerof10 profile)

tbUSA – Did you do much independent research about where you were going before heading out to the US and what made you chose Utah? Did you ever consider going to a British university?

LY – I had wanted to go to America for university for a long time. It was when I was about 14 years old, my training partner Victoria Webster got a lot of scholarship offers from the States, I decided that was what I wanted to work towards. I didn’t really have to do much research, they found me, I had a few offers, but then I went on a recruiting trip to Utah, and it was obvious it was a perfect match for me. I had considered Birmingham if I had stayed in Britain, but my heart was set on the States.

tbUSA – What degree are you studying for at Utah? Can you describe the admissions process that you went through?

LY – I am taking a degree in Mass Communications, with a journalism and photography emphasis. The admissions process for me was very difficult; it’s an area you definitely need as much help as you can get with. There are so many different things, like going through the NCAA clearing house, submitting all the specific grades documents. I wished i had been given more guidance about this before I started because I ended up not being eligible to compete until November, and consequently had to red shirt my first cross country season.

tbUSA – What are the accommodation arrangements like at Utah? Is it like the UK with a combination of halls and privately rented houses or something different?

LY – I think it’s pretty similar to the UK, we have halls of residence at the top of the Uni, which are very nice because they were the athletes village for 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Typically you stay there for freshman year, then move into a house with teammates or friends.

tbUSA – How have you coped with the task of balancing academic and athletic commitments? What do you make of the term ‘student athlete’?

LY – The first semester was pretty tough for me balancing both, and I didn’t start with the best mind set. I was pretty burnt out after A-levels and as far as I was concerned I was here to run, not to be a “student athlete”. However, after a severe reality check I am now very good at balancing both, and have since made the Dean’s list for academic achievement. I understand now why they put such an emphasis on being a student first, the American sports system doesn’t have the same set up for post-collegiate sport, so making sure you get a degree has a lot more importance for athletes out here.

tbUSA – With one year of eligibility left at Utah have you given any thought as to what you would like to do after graduating?

LY – Luckily, because I red-shirted my first semester cross country season I have an extra year of eligibility, so I am competing xc and indoor track, then red-shirting outdoor so that I have 2 years of competing left. After that I really want to stay in the States, so I might apply to be a graduate assistant or volunteer coach, and keep training and competing out here. Hopefully I will run fast enough to catch the eye of a sponsor in two years time.

tbUSA – Athletes often ask about the cultural differences between life in the US and UK. What differences have you noticed, and are any of these linked with Salt Lake City’s status as the home of the Mormon religion? 

LY – Moving to salt lake was a huge culture shock to me, and not just on the Mormon side. We may share the same language, but even now starting my fourth year I still come across a language barrier. Any city that’s the centre of a religion is going to be different, but honestly I don’t even notice it that much anymore. Salt Lake is a very safe city, yes and there are people, even teammates who are very opinionated about their religion, but you just have to get on with it.

tbUSA – Was the fact that Utah is at altitude a factor in your decision making process and did you look in the physiological aspects of altitude training before going?

LY – Yes definitely, I was pretty set on another American university, and Utah recruited me pretty late, so the altitude was one of the deciding factors.

tbUSA – Utah has just joined the Pac 12 Conference (formerly Pac 10). What are your thoughts on this change and are you looking forward to competing against some of the traditional powerhouse schools?

LY – I am so excited to be in the Pac 12. The Mountain West was a good conference, but now I get to compete against my rivals and the top 800 girls all of the time, instead of just at regionals and nationals. I think this move is going to be a great thing for Utah, we’ve been a very good sporting university for a long time, but now we’re in the Pac 12 we can really get recognition for it.

tbUSA – Can you summarise how things have gone athletically for you so far at Utah, and what has been the highlight?

LY – My first year at Utah was tough for running, moving to a new country, different climate is always hard and it took a long time to adjust to training at altitude. However since my sophomore year we made a few changes, my coach in England George Harrison works really closely with my coach here Burke Bockman and head coach Kyle Keplar. As soon as we worked out the kinks my running took off out here.  Highlights have to be making NCAA’s last year, then coming home that summer and winning the  AAAs under 23s. This year it had to be winning the Drake Relays DMR in front of 20,000 spectators.

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

LY – I would say go for it, I think so many really good British athletes consider it, then find it really hard to make that last step. It is a big deal moving to a different country, but it was the best decision of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So research everything about the colleges recruiting you, see what the best fit is for you, then try it. The worst that can happen is you go home, and I highly doubt that will happen.

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