Athlete Feature 08 - Lee Emanuel - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 08 – Lee Emanuel


This week we spoke to back-to-back NCAA Indoor mile champion Lee Emanuel. Lee attended the University of New Mexico from 2007-2010 and is now based in Michigan training as a professional athlete. (Lee’s Powerof10 Profile)

tbUSA – How and when did the opportunity to go the US arise? What would you have done if you had remained in the UK upon graduating from Sheffield Hallam University?

LE – I was originally contacted when I was in 6th form but did not fancy it at the time and shortly afterwards I ended up stopping training for a couple of years. In my last year at university in England I decided I wanted to start running again and that I wanted to go out to America. So I e-mailed about 50 schools and went from there.

I have no idea what I would have done if I stayed in England. I would have had to find a job of some kind. No idea what I would have done, or will do when the time comes that I have to get a proper job. Putting off this process was a major reason for me wanting to go to America.

tbUSA -How did the recruiting process work for you? Were there any complications involved as the head coach who recruited you (Joe Franklin) moved from Butler to New Mexico during recruitment?

LE – I kind of recruited myself. I sent out e-mails to a ton of coaches and got replies from a few. This is where Joe Franklin and I began talking. He had a good record with taking British athletes so felt like it was a good fit. I was going to head out to Butler but when he moved to New Mexico I was lucky enough to go with him and move to the sun instead of the snow and cold. The main complication was the process of getting my scholarship confirmed and accepted into school. As Franklin had just moved to New Mexico he did not know the process as well as he does now so it took longer to get me in to school. This meant I had my visa confirmed on the Saturday, booked a flight for the next day and was sitting in class very tired and confused on Monday.

tbUSA -Did you do much independent research about where you were going before heading out to the US? Were you recruited by other schools?

LE – I should have done some, but to be honest I didn’t. I was going to go to Butler and it was not until after I told Franklin I would go that I found out it was very cold there. So when the chance to go to Albuquerque came up I stuck it in Google and found out that it was pretty big city and the weather was nice and I was very happy with that. After I committed to going I did a bit more research about what they city was like but I had all ready decided I was going at that stage so if I found out it was horrid I was still going out. Got very lucky to be honest!

tbUSA -You have been to University in the UK and the US, what similarities or differences did you find between the two systems?

LE – Very different! The classes are way more specialized in England. I studied media studies and did no other classes but classes related to media. Where as in America, as an under grad, you do all kind of crazy classes such as bowling and gambling classes. The college experience is much more intense in America. There is real pride in what school you go to and school spirit is really promoted. Around campus you will see so many people dressed in their school colours. A lot of this is because of the size of college sports. The ways the football and basketball teams are followed are incredible.  It is incomparable to college sports in the UK and adds a completely different dimension to college life in America.

tbUSA – Given your time again would you have gone to the US for a full undergraduate degree or were you happy with the way you did things going by to a UK university first?

LE – I do not think I would. I think I timed it well for what I needed. I was not too keen to go out to the States at 18-19 and during this time I kind of fell out of love with running for a few years. Going out when I did allowed me to be way more focussed on being an athlete and the extra few years made it easy for me to transition to studying and living in another country.

tbUSA – You improved hugely as an athlete whilst at New Mexico, highlighted by winning two NCAA indoor mile titles. What would you attribute these improvements to?

LE – Training. I arrived at New Mexico as a guy that had run 3:44 off of 5 months very easy training. I was lucky to meet John Wood in Sheffield who coached me for a year and he saw more of a long term plan for me involving going to America. So as I had not trained for a few years and never trained hard before he eased me into training. So as soon as I got to America I was ready to train hard for the first time ever. I increased the workload every season always giving me room for improvement. I improved a great deal each winter after I was able to get in better and better base training phases with a lot of long tempo works and long reps on the track.

tbUSA – Can you talk about your decision to remain in the US after graduating and train as a professional athlete?

LE – I did not think about it too much while I was in college. I was only going to stay if I got a pro contract so I concentrated purely on running well to try and achieve this. Staying in the states was always in the back of my mind as many professional training groups give athletes great support.  I like the lifestyle in the US,  as well as the training mentality, and like spending time out there.

tbUSA – How would you rate your overall US college experience and what was your most memorable highlight?

LE – Extremely memorable. I loved my time at New Mexico and still really miss being there. I met some amazing people that I am still real close friends with, and got to experience a great city and school. Doing a masters meant that I was able to balance out studying and training really well as the workload was not as much as an under graduate degree. Classes were in the evening so it never got in the way of training with the team.

In terms of running my most memorable moment was winning the Mountain West Conference cross country title as a team in 2009. Our team grew so much over the 3 years I was there and it was a great achievement to win conference and to celebrate as a team was great.

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

LE – I would recommend it but obviously it is not for everyone. I would recommend people research as much as they can. I did not do this but got very lucky with my choice. There were a few other schools that I was looking at that I’d never really heard of when I was in America so they would have been poor choices. But for people at 21/22 who are finishing degrees in England who want to a few years of high level training and education America is a great place and I do not know anyone who has really regretted going out to the states to run and study.

Comments are closed.