Athlete Feature 17 - Nick Rose

Athlete Feature 17 – Nick Rose

Nick Rose Athlete Feature

This week we spoke to Nick Rose. Rose attended Western Kentucky University from 1972-1976 and is one of the earliest and most succesful British athletes to have gone through the NCAA system. The 1972 NCAA Cross Country Champion and eight time All-American went on to compete in two Olympic Games for Great Britain and his 27.34 road 10k remains a British record. He was inducted into the Western Kentucky University Hall of Fame in 1991. You can read about his achievements here.


tbUSA – How did you go from Bristol to WKU? Were you recruited or was it a case of applying like students do to most British universities?

NR - Alan Launder was the assistant coach at WKU at the time and, having read about me in Athletics Weekly, decided to “drop in” and have a chat!

tbUSA – Why did you decide that going to the US was the best option for you at the time? Did you consider staying in the UK for work or university?

NR – I left grammar school at 16 and decided that it was time to get a job and earn some money. I did not enjoy the academic side of school at the time and left with little in the way of qualifications. However, I soon realised that if I wanted to improve as an athlete the job I had was not the right environment to do so!

tbUSA – Way before the internet age began in the early 70s, were you able to do much research before heading to WKU?

NR – WKU to me was the USA. I had no idea where it was in the US but it was an opportunity to progress as an athlete. On arriving however it was a shock to the system!!! Bible belt, no drinking under 21 and in a bit of a time warp, but I loved it!!!

tbUSA – What degree did you graduate with from WKU? Have you made use of it since you have been back in the UK?

NR – I came away with a teaching degree in PE. This served me well because on my return I went back to university over here to get the equivalent, and I have been a primary school teacher for the past 15 years.

tbUSA – You had an extremely successful career at WKU, capturing 8 All-America Honours and 2 individual NCAA Championships. To what extent did your experiences in college provide a platform for you up to make the transition onto the international stage?

NR – WKU made me. I feel that I was fortunate to be in a not too competitive conference. Ok we had the Irish at east Tennessee but a lot of the dual meets I could train through and build towards the major events. I have a lot to thank Alan Launder for. He moved on to Australia and became one of their top coaches. The head coach let us get on with our own training, on condition that we were successful.

The transition was quite easy as I experienced racing against the likes of Prefontaine, Waigwa, Ngeno, Kimwomba, Paul Geis, Virgin, Neil Cusack, Eddy Leddy, Doug Brown and so on, all proven internationals.

tbUSA – Your NCAA Cross Country Championship battles in 1972, 1973, and 1974 with Steve Prefontaine (inset), John Ngeno, and Craig Virgin have since become legendary. Classic confrontations which surely hold some special memories for you?

NR – Memories I will never forget and for which I would not have if I had not gone to WKU.

Racing Pre in Washington State at the national cross was brilliant, as were the many battles with Craig. The camaraderie was wonderful. Battles in races and then beers in the bar!!! Great stuff!!

tbUSA – There were not as many foreign athletes competing in the NCAA when you were there as there are now. Why do you think that the number of foreign athletes competing has since increased?

NR – Here now we have to pay tuition to go to university, something which we never used to have to do. I can foresee many more Brits going west.

tbUSA – How would you rate your overall US college experience?  What was your most memorable highlight at Western Kentucky?

NR- Many! Maybe one that stands out was being the first person to run under 4 minutes in the mile in Kentucky. This was in a dual meet against Indiana. Second that day was a hugely talented guy called Steve Heidenrach, tragically knocked down in a hit and run soon after.

We were a close knit bunch at Western and we still are. Swag Hartel and Neil Davis organise an alumni mile every year in Louisville. This extends to a reunion where many more attend, including myself, every 5 years. Swag generously flies many of us in. In the past the guests have included Steve Jones and Craig Virgin. The only stipulation is that you have to race!!

tbUSA – Whilst the NCAA system may have seen changes in the years since you graduated, the basic principles of foreign athletes receiving scholarships remain the same. That being said, what advice would you offer to athletes who are currently considering the US collegiate system?

NR – Because so many foreign athletes attend US universities, ask around, use the internet and see if it is what YOU are looking for. For me and many others it worked. For some it did not.

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