Athlete Feature 13 (with a slant) - David Jankowski - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 13 (with a slant) – David Jankowski

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Advising International athletes about NCAA is one aim of this website. So far this has all been from an International perspective. For that reason we decided to feature an American athlete for the first time. David Jankowski attended Oklahoma State University from 2003-2007 and was on a team with athletes of varying nationalities, including Brits. The Idaho native now competes professionally for ZAP fitness and is currently preparing for the US Olympic marathon trials.

tbUSA – You were part of a very successful Oklahoma State Cross Country Team, the highlight being a 3rd place finish in the NCAA Championships 2007. What was the team spirit and camaraderie like amongst the group that year?

DJ - The chemistry on the team the year we finished 3rd was awesome. There was a lot of competition within the team for positions, but in a healthy and fun way. That very team chemistry was the main reason I ended up running at Oklahoma State when I was recruited. I knew that moving a long way from home these guys would be my family, so I wanted to have a more tight knit family if I had a choice.

tbUSA – Britain, Kenya, Canada, France, Romania, to name but a few overseas nations represented on your Oklahoma State team. Must have been quite a diverse mix each day at training?

DJ – Yeah, we had a very diverse group of runners. I always found that exciting though. It was a chance to be exposed to ideas and cultures I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see had I gone to a school that didn’t recruit outside of the U.S., or even out of state like many do.

tbUSA – What training related ideas did you pick up from some of the foreign athletes on your team, and vice versa, what do you think they learned from the Americans?

DJ – It really depends on the country the runners were from. We all have training ideas that we have had impressed on us from an early age and those came out in practice. It seemed the European athletes were used to a lot of intensity in their workouts while the Americans had a background in higher volume or threshold-based work.

tbUSA – Did the large number of foreign athletes on your team integrate fully into the US lifestyle and system, or did they keep to themselves? Three years on from graduating, are you still in regular contact with many of them?

DJ - The English speaking foreign athletes assimilated quickly to university life. They all fitted in well and found groups to fit in with. Most of the non-English speaking athletes assimilated well too, but they usually took a little longer for them to fit in due to language skills.

tbUSA – It is often documented that some American athletes don’t like foreigners coming along and ‘taking up all the scholarships.’ As an American athlete who was on a team with foreigners what are your thoughts on this?

DJ – It seems there are a few athletes in the states who agree with that sentiment, but I always wanted to see the best athletes on the line next to me no matter their nationality. If I lost my scholarship because a foreign athlete, that would have been my own fault.

tbUSA – Within the English Premiership football (soccer) there are rules on the number of ‘home grown’ players that each squad must contain. Do you think that something like this should be applied within the NCAA?

DJ – No, I don’t really think that is necessary in the NCAA. For the moment at least, most teams are generally American.

tbUSA – You trained and raced with foreign athletes day-in day-out during your collegiate days. Do you think that this experience served you well as you entered the professional ranks of racing globally?

DJ – Absolutely. I think the NCAA served as a great stepping-stone into international racing for me. You get the opportunity to race some of the best young runners in the world, which made the jump to professional racing easier.

tbUSA - The dropout rate from college to professional level is extremely high amongst American athletes, despite many achieving highly during their collegiate career. Why do you think this is, and what made you decide to carry on running post collegiately?

DJ - Running is not a lucrative sport and many people have other things that they consider priorities. I think there are also expectations from a lot of people to get a “real” job after college. For me, I couldn’t stop running until I knew I couldn’t achieve anything more. Health problems in my last two collegiate seasons left a bitter taste in my mouth and compelled me to continue.

tbUSA – As an American, what advice would you give to perspective International students considering the NCAA system?

DJ -Be aware of what you are getting into before you pack up to leave. Know the school, the coach, and if you can, some of the team. If you can, talk to runners from your country that have run in the NCAA and get an idea which schools are worth looking into and which are not. There are a lot of stories of runners who came to the States for a year, only to leave frustrated and exhausted because they moved to a location and training environment that didn’t fit their talents.

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