Athlete Feature 19 - Steve Lisgo - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 19 – Steve Lisgo


Steve Lisgo attended Butler University from 2009-2011. The Mansfield Harrier medalled at the 2009 NCAA 3000m steeplechase and revised his PBs massively during his stint in Indiana. However, he also suffered from a few injury problems towards the end of his NCAA career which preventing him from pushing on in his second year. His Powerof10 profile can be found here.

tbUSA:  You graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2008. Was it always the intention to go to the US, or did you consider staying in the UK?

SL: No not really. It was more a case of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. The lads I was training and living with in Leeds were regularly discussing what was on offer out in the States. I took on board what they were saying to one another and decided I wanted a bit of it too.

tbUSA: Butler have been recruiting British athletes for many years. Was this one of the reasons why you decided on Butler? Did you have other options available?

SL: It was somewhat comforting as I already knew Rob Mullett, Joe Mac etc. I choose to attend Butler after seeing the impressive improvement curves of Tommy Davies and Andy Baker. If these two hadn’t been British their progression wouldn’t have been as recognisable.  So yeah the British thing really helped with my decision.

I was in loose contact with a few other schools but I liked how Coach Roe communicated with me and as a result the others quickly fell by the wayside.

tbUSA: Did you like the fact that there were so many other Brits on the team with you at Butler? Do you think that this reduced the ‘American experience’ in any way?

SL: At times I really liked it and at others I really disliked it. Great for many reasons: mutual interests, similar backgrounds, able to sympathize with one another’s problems easily. Though, with their being so many of us (in my opinion) it had a negative effect on our team as a whole. We would unintentionally isolate ourselves at times due to our topic of conversation being literally foreign to our American or Australian teammates. I felt guilty for this at times. The class after mine (Hawkins, Clarke, Ellis etc.) are much more integrated though and from the outside looking in appear to have a much better group cohesion.

As regard my American experience; I feel that being out there with other Brits only had a slight negative impact upon it. I exposed myself to a lot of things and enjoyed them all immensely. I would advise any Brit in the NCAA to be very inquisitive whenever travelling. America is a very diverse and interesting place.

tbUSA: Athletically, it looked like your time at Butler consisted of a number of highs and lows. Were you injured at all and /or did you find the three seasons a year structure difficult to manage?

SL: I had nothing but little niggles whilst I was running for Butler. We had great medical support from a team who used to look after Bob Kennedy. These guys at St. Vincent Sports Performance were great at keeping me training and racing.

I feel my up and down campaign in the NCAA reflects how deep the talent pool actually is. If you are high on confidence, and have a series of good performances behind you, then the sky is the limit with the calibre of guys pushing hard in races. Though, if you are coming off an injury or struggling mentally you’re in trouble. The seasons are short leaving limited room for error anyhow, but on top of that as you progress through the season each race gets deeper in talent. Anyone considering going out to the States needs to seriously consider weighing up whether it is more important to run in Summer BMC races or spend their summer logging high mileage ready for NCAA XC?

tbUSA: Your standout performance in the US was a 3rd place finish at the 2009 NCAA Championships over 3000m steeplechase where you ran a PB of 8.35. Can you talk about how that season went and did you strategically avoid the fast early season Mt SAC and Stanford meets in order to peak for the NCAAs?   

SL: That season was fantastic! Starting indoors I ran 8.05 for 3k and a 4.06/1.51 double at conference. These three performances were huge for my confidence. I know I can comfortably operate at a 30 second 3k flat to Chase differential so then everything became about recreating that 3k race outdoors. We didn’t want to waste that 8.35 though! Both Coach Roe and Phil called for patience and for that reason we didn’t go to great lengths to run a fast early season time at Mt. SAC or Stanford. Instead I ran a solo 8.45 close to Butler. That time was good enough to qualify me for Regionals so we left it at that and set about a block of consistent and hard training that would see me peak at the NCAAs. The plan went exceedingly well. I ran a personal best of 8.42 at Regionals despite easing down the final 400 as I was comfortably in a qualifying position. At NCAAs I felt fresh and could sense that many around me were long past their peak. This filled me with great confidence and lead to a great race in the final.

tbUSA: Butler is a small private school, known for its emphasis on academics. How did you find the academic challenge and what degree did you study for?

SL: I attained a Master’s degree in Special Education. I really enjoyed the course and thought that it was pitched at a decent level. Butler is an extremely liberal college which places great emphasis on the relationship students share with their professors. As a result there is always someone with your best interest at heart checking up on your progress. This really helped me out!

The workload was never huge though; roughly an hour or two a day which quickly became a nice distraction from running.

tbUSA: Can you talk about your US experience away from the track / classroom. What sort of things did you get up to on campus? Was it easy to relax sometimes from the demands placed on being a student athlete?

SL: Basketball. The state of Indiana is crazy about the sport and Butler is one of the premier teams in America. I absolutely loved going along to the games and rooting for them.  Renowned for their giant killing they are rightfully likened to David after each win over much bigger universities in the national media.

Day to day though I was world class at relaxing! I would spend hours watching Sky Sports news (Me, Mullett and Boardman paid well over the odds for this) whilst lying on the sofa. When we did leave the house we played lots of ping pong and pool at the recreation centre.

Along with that we were fortunate enough to have a great guy on our team who was very proactive in organising events. Team pasta dinners, Christmas Meal, and Halloween were just a few of his success stories. That is pretty much it though.

tbUSA: Now that you have recently graduated from Butler, what do you plan to do next? Was staying in the US considered at all?

SL: I am now back training with Phil and our great group at South Leeds Stadium. Training has been going very well and I am optimistic of getting back to where I was in 2009.

My girlfriend is American and for that reason I thought about it. However, staying out there and running post collegiately for a team is extremely hard to do as they are understandably reluctant to invest in foreign athletes. Though, that being said there is a good group of guys that get together on a daily basis in Indianapolis. I plan to run with them when I go out to visit my girlfriend over Christmas but ultimately training under the guidance of Phil is what is best for me.

We are aiming at running a short indoor campaign before really gearing up for the trials in June. Outside of training and racing I will be working 25 hours per week whilst living at home with my Dad.

tbUSA: Final question, what advice do you have for perspective student athletes considering the US collegiate system?

SL: GO!!!! You can always come back!

Use Facebook to contact any athletes who have been before. Don’t listen to what you hear on the grapevine as it is so easy to contact somebody who is either out there or has been there before. Finally, be conscious of people’s agendas when discussing America.

Watch more video of 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on

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