Tom and Joe Wade - Athlete Interview

Athlete Feature 28 – Tom and Joe Wade

Tom and Joe Wade in familiar surroundings

Tom and Joe Wade

This week we spoke to Isle of Wight twins Joe and Tom Wade (Wadeii). NCAA appearances, numerous conference titles, 4.0 GPAs, and adapting to 5.30am runs; the twins have kindly agreed to talk about their journey from the island, to London, and then Beaumont, Texas.

tbUSA – You attended the same university (twice), studied for the same degree (twice) and both compete in the 3000m SC. Anyone would think that you are twins. Was it purely coincidental or did you consciously chose to take the same career paths?

Wades – When you look at it like that people will start thinking that we wear matching clothes, finish each other’s sentences and are joined at the hip. But yeah I suppose from the outside we look like stereotypical twins. However, although we share many things in common we are very different, if we didn’t look alike then you may not even think we were brothers. Quite simply we go about things a little differently but at the end of the day we end up in the same place. Maybe we chose the same career paths because growing up together you tend to have the same interests and, being twins, we also enjoy the same things. We were pretty average athletes as youngsters with no goals other than really to enjoy training and competing once in a while. We were lucky the island has a great coach, Geoff Watkin, who guided us towards the chase quite early on and then eventually also towards St Mary’s. After three brilliant years at one of the best places to go to uni as a distance runner, Lamar became an option. It was too good an opportunity to turn down, so we stayed together with the company of good friend Ron Burgundy (or Mark Woodley as his birth certificate says) who was a housemate, teammate and classmate at St Mary’s. The three of us know we work well athletically and academically together so it was natural for us to all move to Lamar together.

tbUSA- What attracted you both to Lamar and did you consider other schools or any employment offers in the UK or US?

Wades – Well we were in our last semester at St. Mary’s and fully focusing on just surviving our dissertations, so we weren’t really thinking about what we were going to do post university. Mitch Goose had previously told us to think about going and that if we sent a few emails out then the worst we would have to face is a ‘no thank you’. Eventually, we thought we had nothing to lose and with a combination of naivety and poor knowledge of the NCAA we searched for a list of the division 1 schools and sent out a small number of emails, and almost instantly I got a reply from Lamar who had contacted Tom last year but lazily he never got round to replying. The more and more Tom spoke to Lamar we learned about the races we would go to, the facilities and the rehabilitation benefits. No other school filled us with as much confidence as Coach Stewart did at Lamar. An important aspect for us was to have a coach that we knew we would get on with and Coach Stewart stood out from the rest. We didn’t know a huge amount about Beaumont and we definitely just jumped in at the deep end and put all our trust in the coach. Initially the coach was speaking to me (Tom) therefore, I will always remember his reaction when I told him I had a twin, he had no Idea and I think he was surprised I hadn’t mentioned it before. Joe ended up arriving in Houston having never spoken to Coach Stewart only through email. Apart from the coach, the biggest appeal really was Lamar recruiting myself, Joe and Mark together, also that they focus their resources on the distance team and as a result have won four XC conferences and they send athletes away to big competitions for XC, indoor and outdoor.

tbUSA – Despite not being at a school with a long tradition of recruiting British athletes, we counted a total of seven on the Lamar 2012 roster. What do you think has led to this sudden surge of Brits heading to Beaumont?

TW – Lamar is quite a small school in Texas and with such big guns within the state such as UT and Texas A&M its hard to compete for the quality young athletes coming out of high school. Most of these athletes would prefer to receive little or no scholarship to be part of a big program, some of these athletes may never even get into the team in all four years. Struggling to compete, Lamar opted to recruit internationals and in the past there have been an influx of Kiwis and Ugandans but now it’s us! When they signed us three guys the coach already had another English guy ready for January. All of the international students tend to help each other out as much as possible and get a lot of support from the Americans. I think that is an attraction for some recruits who like a bit of familiarity. Also the new outrageous fees for degrees back home will see more Brits wanting to come out and some universities will embrace that. But as for Lamar we hope that the Brits can take the team further than it has been before.

tbUSA – You both studied for masters degrees in kinesiology after previously completing undergraduate degrees in strength and conditioning from St Mary’s. How did you find the academic element and did you embrace the title of being a ‘student-athlete’?

TW – To be honest we felt very lucky to be given full scholarships, and we knew not all the athletes received full rides so I suppose we looked at it as having a responsibility to the school and your teammates to give everything as an athlete. But also you had be on your game as a student as team GPA is very important as can determine how much money each athletic program is allowed to spend on scholarships etc…. Also, you need a degree to fall back on when you eventually need to start looking for a job so it is in your best interests as well to work hard. This may all sound like hard work but it really was very manageable and as masters students we found we still had a lot of spare time between work and running, due to our small amount of class time, this was met with some jokes from the other guys on the team who were in class nearing 20 hours a weeks to our 6-8 hours. The masters we took was pretty similar to the degree we took at St. Mary’s but in more detail, so we were in a good position to do well. We completed our masters with 4.0 GPAs without having to constantly stress about schoolwork while keeping focus on our running, and it worked out very well.

tbUSA – Athletically, you have both appeared to have made big improvements during your two years at Lamar. Can you pinpoint some of the reasons for these improvements?

TW- The structure of training out there is something we have never had to that extent, we both have definitely been found guilty of lack of motivation in the past. Having the strict times to train, the accessibility and high standard of prehab/rehab, weights etc keeps you motivated to train and the coaches’ passion for the sport and performance is fantastic. The American philosophy of training really developed our weaknesses which is the strength and endurance side. We went to America with low weekly mileage and very rarely ran tempos. We found it hard to adjust at first and had a poor first XC season but all the long tempos and mile repeats really did help us after a while and now we have been converted. Along with slowly increasing our mileage, committing a lot more time and effort are the main reasons for us taking the extra step forward and we believe this is going to help us keep improving. Lastly I have to say we were lucky to have such a great head coach who was extremely approachable with any problem anybody was having which made the move a lot easier.

tbUSA – Collectively amongst the two of you, there have been a number of personal bests, Southland Conference Championship wins, NCAA appearances and even Academic All-American awards. What has been the most memorable moment for each of you?

TW- Apart from running some good personal bests I think my favourite running moment would be winning at Stanford. It is such a good meet and I didn’t expect that race to go that well so early on in the season. Also winning a sixth consecutive XC conference title was great to be apart from. Although some of the most memorable moments are simply just being part of a close knit team day in and day out.

JW- I don’t claim on being a great athlete, I just want get as much out of the sport as I can and I have had some great experiences. Being in such a close team of great lads has been one of the best experiences for me. Athletically, in my first indoor season being moved down to the 800 and winning conference in a school record along with winning the DMR was great. Also finely making NCAA track this year after an extremely tactical race was awesome, Tom didn’t know I’d got through until half way through the cool down!

tbUSA – You are our first featured athletes to have attended a school in Texas. Can you give some insight into life in the ‘Lone Star State’ and how this may have differed from growing up on the Isle of Wight?

Wades – Yeh, it was a bit different to say the least, the island is a very scenic place with lots of great beaches to run along. Texas was very different but after all that’s what we wanted, a new challenge a new culture we could embrace and enjoy. We had to get used to 5:30am starts almost every day to avoid the heat and humidity. Our first run ended in us almost collapsing because of the heat then just lying in the ice bath just to cool down. It was a shock to the system to begin with but after a week of steady running it got easier and then to the point where it wasn’t too bad at all and you don’t notice it a whole lot. January/February time is great, like a really good English summer, no humidity and 25-30 degrees but with a wind chill so not too hot and is great to be in. And as for living in Texas, Austin (State capital) is probably the best place I have been to in the whole of the state. We are not sure why people are reluctant to look at southern universities as we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Texas, and would recommend Texas to anyone, maybe more athletes will give it a go in the future.

tbUSA – After three years at St Mary’s and two years at Lamar, you have both now reached the end of your five year window of eligibility. Have you applied for a potential sixth year of eligibility under NCAA rule 14.2.1.4?

TW- I am not going for an extra year as I am currently living in Denmark with my girlfriend (who I met at Lamar), and looking forward to a fresh challenge as five years at uni is enough for me right now.

JW- I, however, went through the very, very long process of applying for a 6th year and have recently been accepted so I should be returning for one more year in the NCAA. I have had a lot of help from a few Brits who have done the same and I am very happy to go back because I feel I will continue to improve out there.

tbUSA – Final question, and a necessity in any of our athlete features. What advice would you give to perspective student athletes considering the NCAA system?

TW- Well we were very lucky in landing at a very supportive place like Lamar, we didn’t do a huge amount of research and went on instinct as I thought very highly of the coach. Although, his hard work led him to a bigger job, Lamar managed to bring in an equally top coach in January and our head coach could not be a nicer guy and we were lucky to have had such a good relationship with all of them. But aside from researching your university options thoroughly, I would read trackboundUSA as it is a great resource because people have very different experiences. Also if you are thinking of going to America then start making enquires early, we started way too late and ended up arrived a few weeks late which wasn’t ideal. If you find the right fit then I am sure the NCAA will make you a better athlete and provide you with a good education to use in the future.

Tom winning at Stanford

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Joe’s indoor mile Conference Win

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