Athlete Feature 11 - Antony Ford - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 11 – Antony Ford

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This week we spoke to British endurance athlete Antony Ford. Ford enjoyed a successful collegiate career at the University of Montana and later at the University of Wisconsin. He was a 3 time All American at cross country and is now back in the UK concentrating his efforts on making the GB marathon team for next year’s Olympics. His Powerof10 profile can be found here.

tbUSA – Initially you began your collegiate career at the University of Montana in Missoula. This is not a school that has a huge tradition of recruiting Brits; how and why did you decide to go there?

AF – Basically my brother had gone to America on a soccer scholarship at West Virginia University and said the facilities and support system for athletes in America was first class. I knew of the location of Montana and that it was in the middle of the Rocky Mountains so I knew it would be at altitude and  the location would be scenic for runs. With it being a small college town,  it would also allow me to focus with very little distraction.

tbUSA – Midway through your time at Montana, you transferred to the University of Wisconsin. Why did you decide to do this?

AF – After 3 successful years at Montana I had made All American as individual twice in the NCAA Cross Country (16th 2002 and 26th 2003) and narrowly missing out on All American indoor in the 5000m in 2004. I was looking for a new challenge and my training partner and good friend Scott Mcgowen (3:36 1500m runner) had graduated that year. I went on recruiting trips to several universities including Oregon, Georgia, and Oklahoma, however I decided on Wisconsin due to the quality of athletes that were there and the reputation and enthusiasm of the coach Jerry Schumacher (now coaching at Oregon TC).

tbUSA – Transferring is strictly regulated by the NCAA. Can you give a summary of the process you went through and rules you had to abide by?

AF – Yes, it’s true that there are strict regulations regarding transferring. Basically you have to go to your coach and ask to be released. The university then do the paperwork and put you on a clearing list. Once you are on that list other universities can then contact you and get you down there on recruiting trips.

tbUSA – How did transferring effect your academic situation? What qualifications did you obtain and have you made use of these since graduating?

AF – It can be hard to transfer academically as the university you want to go to might not have your major. But luckily for me I was ok. I got my undergraduate degree in History. Initially when I came back to the UK I did my PGCE and went into teaching, but it was affecting my running too much. I subsequently joined the Fire Service in 2009 and have been working as a fire-fighter ever since.

tbUSA – You were part of one of the most dominating team performances ever seen at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2005. Can you describe what it was like to being on that team and did you ever envisage that there would be future American and Canadian record holders amongst the group?

AF – 2005 was perhaps the best year in my athletics career to date. I had just competed in the European U23s in the 10,000m that summer and came into the cross country season in great shape. I knew that the team we had assembled that year would take some beating. We were quietly confident throughout the year. Day-in day-out in training we worked hard as a team. We knew going into NCAA Cross that year we were in good shape but to get 6 counters in the first 17 places was just a great feeling to see all the hard work pay off. I knew at the time Solinsky, Biaru, Tegenkamp and Nelson would go on to do great things because of the times they were running in training and their ability to churn it out lap after lap.

tbUSA – To name drop just a few of your Wisconsin teammates: Chris Solinsky, Simon Bairu, Tim Nelson. These athletes have all gone on to become successful at professional level under Coach Jerry Schumacher. Did you ever consider staying in the US and trying to become part of that set up?

AF – I did consider staying on in the US once I had graduated. However the university’s foreign student office forgot to send off my paperwork for a works visa which meant I could no longer stay in the country post-graduation in 2006.

tbUSA – Since graduating you have returned to the UK and continued to run at a high level, setting PBs in every distance. What is your training set up now and how does it differ from your collegiate days?

AF – Thanks. Yes I have been fortunate to run all my PBs since returning to the UK. I pretty much train on my own in Blackpool. Due to my shift patterns as a fire-fighter I often find it hard to have a regular training pattern so I work on an 8 day cycle that I have devised with my Coach Stan Taylor. It seems to work really well for me. But it does mean 90% of the work I have to do on my own which I find motivating in itself.  I do train with Stuart Robinson (2:24 Marathoner) sometimes when my schedule allows me it. There are no secrets to my training; just hard work and dedication.

tbUSA – Can you summarize your overall collegiate experience? What were the high and low points of your time in the US?

AF – I had a really good collegiate experience. My first three years was great in Montana and I made a lot of friends who I still keep in touch with today. The training environment was also excellent. I did have low points in those first three years as I picked up a stress fracture and ended up missing an entire summer in 2003. During my next two years at Wisconsin I developed a lot as a 10k runner though. I owe a lot of my knowledge of the sport to both my coaches out there; Tom Rauning at Montana and Jerry Schmacher at Wisconsin. I learnt a lot from them which I implement in my training today.

tbUSA – Finally, what advice would you have for any perspective student-athletes who are considering the US collegiate system?

AF – I would recommend the US Collegiate to any perspective student-athlete. The experiences you have both athletically and academically are second to none.  But what I will say is make your decision wisely based on your current level. Even if you end up going to a relatively unknown university you can still make big improvements.

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