Born in Norwich, but has spent most of his life living in Australia, Ethan Heywood now competes for Iona. He talks about his international experiences with Australia to date, how he ended up at Iona and why he wants to represent GB&NI at senior level.
* This interview was conducted before the NCAA XC Champs in Nov.
Born in Norfolk, you moved at an early age to Australia. Despite spending most of your formative years in Australia, is it fair to say you consider yourself to be British?
Yes, definitely. Even though I lived over in Perth I always considered myself English.
If so, despite have competed for Australia at the World XC, do you still harbor ambitions to race for GB at senior level?
Early in 2011 I made a commitment to run for GB and not long ago I was cleared by the IAAF. I’ve always wanted to run for GB but because of the situation I was in it would have been impossible for us to do it. I do have plans to trial for GB in the near future, unfortunately it’s not going to be as soon as I hoped but if I’m healthy enough next season I’ll be over for the U23 trials.
While the US collegiate system is fairly common to most British and Irish athletes, they don’t know much about the Australian collegiate system. Did you feel you had to follow the likes of David McNeill etc to USA to further your athletics, rather than to stay in Australia at university?
There is virtually no collegiate athletics system in Australia, especially in Perth. The University championships are a bit of a joke and the standard of competition has nothing on the States. Over east there are some good competitions but I wanted to come out here to America because of the standard really, and it makes it much easier for me to return to England when I want to go for the trials or to see family.
You chose Iona. It is a school with an excellent track and field tradition and also one of recruiting many commonwealth athletes. Was this a major factor in you choosing New Rochelle over other areas, assuming you had plenty of offers?
Initially I wasn’t planning on coming to the states and turned down all the offers I received, including Iona. I was considering going back home to England for a while to study, but that proved to be too expensive of an option. Despite me turning them down initially, Joe Pienta (assistant coach at Iona) had stayed in contact with me while I was recovering from surgery on my foot (I cut a tendon on some glass). We got on quite well, and his genuine interest and concern as to how things were going was basically why I chose Iona. Once I was back and running again I decided the states were the best option because there was little for me to do in Perth athletically. The coaches here are great, and besides knowing what they’re doing with regard to training, they really look after their athletes.
What was it that you looked for? Primarily athletics, or were academics a major consideration? And NYC, was that an attractive aspect too?
New York City is really just a bonus. I wanted to go somewhere where the athletics program was really good, obviously, but academics were a big consideration too. Iona is a good school, but really it was Iona or nothing because by the time I decided I wanted to go, I wasn’t getting any other offers coming in. That didn’t matter much in the end though because the set up here is great, both with athletics and academics.
You are a sophomore transfer from University of Western Australia with PBs of 3:50, 8:17, and 14:37. You also have represented Australia at two Worlds XCs. Have you come to Iona with any ambitions or is it a case of slowly getting your feet wet and seeing what happens?
I’ve had a frustrating last year with injury, and have had a few interrupted track seasons because of the World Cross so at the moment it’s about getting back on my feet. I have big ambitions, and am positive about how things will play out, but really I have to keep my head on my shoulders and focus on training at the moment. I’m really looking forward to indoors and getting back out there to run fast again.
In terms of this XC season, you’ve be thrown straight into a very competitive Iona team. How have things been in the build-up up to now, and what are your own personal, and team, goals for Nationals?
Unfortunately I’m not going to be in the team for nationals. I’ve had a weird season, I started to run well again about midway through and thought I’d be in the team that is going to Louisville but I had a bought of illness that affected me in Wisco and stopped me competing for a spot on the team at the MAAC championships – I couldn’t even get out of bed, of course I’d get sick that one time I get to go to Disney World! I’m still happy with how everything has gone though, I got my confidence back and despite a few bumps along the way it was a good season of training for me and now I’m just excited to get on the track.
I believe you prefer the track over the cross country, so will we see you at Notre Dame and Seattle taking those PBs down indoors?
I love cross, but I do prefer the track. I’m dying to get out and run some fast times indoors and out because it’s been a long time since I had a full track season. The last few have been significantly shortened by World Cross (World Cross is on during the Australian summer) and then I missed the whole of last season coming back from surgery, so it’s been a while. No idea where I’ll be running, but no doubt I’ll get a chance to run some big races.
Having successfully navigated the recruiting process in landing in Iona, what advice would you give to other prospective student-athletes, either in Australia, or the UK, or anywhere else for that matter?
Honestly I’m so impressed with the set up here so far, it’s definitely something other athletes should consider doing. I’d just make sure you get a chance to assess your options before coming out here, and go on a visit – I didn’t do that I just committed and took a risk. I’d say I got pretty lucky, I love it here so far, no complaints.
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