Chris Gowell talks Baylor and Rogue Running

Athlete Feature 29 – Chris Gowell

Chris Gowell

This week’s featured athlete is Swansea AC’s Chris Gowell. The middle distance athlete ran new PBs of 1:46 and 3:41 while in the Lone Star State. He now runs professionally for Team Rogue, based out of Austin, TX. He represented Wales at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Dehli.

tbUSA – Looking at the current Baylor roster, there are very few athletes from outside of Texas, let alone outside of the US. How did you end up becoming the exception to this general trend?

CG – My good buddy and room-mate at the time was recruited by a few American universities, including Baylor. However, he decided to go to New Mexico and mentioned Baylor to me.  Out of curiosity I emailed them, thinking nothing of it. They flew me out there for a visit and I loved it!

It’s tough for some universities to recruit foreign athletes as they usually have to offer a full scholarship and this means less allocation of money elsewhere. I got lucky.

tbUSA – Growing up in Newport, Wales and you then find yourself at a private, Christian university in Waco, Texas. Could these surroundings have been any more different?

CG – The surroundings are different in every sense of the word. I sure miss the hills and serenity of Wales, where the only disturbances when in the countryside are sheep and cattle grids. Although, Texas and Baylor in particular has its own beauty; there is nothing like a deep red Texas sunset. Despite not having a particularly Christian background, but always having an appreciation for faith and keeping an open mind, I enjoyed the culture at Baylor. It was an extremely humbling experience.

tbUSA – How did you find the academic side at Baylor, studying for a masters degree in health education?

CG – It was a good degree to learn in today’s world. The course wasn’t too demanding at just 9 hours a week in the class room. I was initially accepted on ‘probation’ due to my poor GRE exam and Baylor’s high standards, but I soon adapted to the course. The UK university system is a lot higher paced so I never felt out of my depth.

tbUSA – You made 3 out of a possible 4 NCAA Championship finals over 800m indoors and outdoors during your two years, a highly commendable achievement. The training set up in Waco must have suited you from start to finish?

CG – I went to Baylor already well developed. My previous coaches, Ann Hill (legend and dearly missed) and Darrell Maynard, who is currently one of the UK’s most successful coaches were fantastic for my development at a young age. I went to Baylor fit, and Todd Harbour got me fast on top of my fitness. These attributes combined meant I was always ready to run fast. I also trained with the cross country lads in the winter, who regularly kicked my ass but pushed me to be more aerobically fit.

tbUSA – You are one of the few British athletes to have remained in the US post collegiately and continued to run seriously. How and why have you been able to do this? Are you working at all?

CG – My current group, Rogue Athletic Club, in Austin, sponsor me for my Athletes Visa. Adidas sponsor RAC and we are well looked after. I work for the club side of Rogue in marketing and program development for our non-profit section which helps local high school students run and have direction.

Adapting to the 1500 has proven tough and last year was highly disappointing, but I’m committed to my development long term, and it’s going to take longer to develop.

tbUSA – Can you talk about the set up you currently have with Team Rogue. How does this compare to your collegiate days with Baylor?

CG – We are a team of 12 post collegiate athletes. We get full kit and a stipend from Adidas. We have a great support network with Steve Sisson (Texas University’s Assistance Coach) and Jeff Knight as our coaches. We are a non-profit organization, which means we raise money for supporting the local community and we can accept donations from organizations.

Life outside of college is a lot different. At Baylor, we had more of a structure and set race plans. Being a post collegiate means being more independent, self motivated and not racing as often. Because we do not race as often, we train harder and longer. As a collegiate, you’re always primed to run fast most of the year. Whereas learning to run post collegiately means more patience and eating a few ‘poop’ (with want of a better word) sandwiches every once in a while. I ran my fastest while in college, but I believe to get to the next level, you have to train differently, thinking of the long term.

tbUSA – Do you see yourself remaining and settling in the US for the foreseeable future, or will Wales be calling you back anytime soon?

CG – I foresee myself in the USA for some time. I always miss the UK but the lifestyle and opportunities here far outweighs what I have in the UK.

tbUSA – A slightly different final question to what we usually ask. Instead, what advice would you have to athletes who are looking to live in the US and continue running seriously?

CG – USA is a fantastic opportunity for athletes who are right on the edge of being fast, but not fast enough to get on the UK funding. Although the UK, Wales in particular, are doing a better job in developing athletes, I was one of those athletes that just couldn’t make that jump to the senior ranks. I ran 1.47 indoors the year I moved to Baylor, won the U20 and U23 UK championships but never really progressed like I should have. That being said, running was a small part in my decision. I was eager to learn more and I couldn’t pass up a free masters. I wanted for absolutely nothing while at Baylor.

My advice is that you’ll always have a home you can go back to if it doesn’t work out, but the window to run in the NCAA, experience a different culture, and learn for free is very small. If you want to run in America, network and put yourself out there.

 

Below: Chris setting his PB of 3:41.67 at the Harry Jerome Invitational 2012.

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