Athlete Feature 39 - Mitch Goose - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 39 – Mitch Goose

Mitch Goose of Iona

NCAA senior, and St. Mary’s graduate, Mitch Goose spoke to us about his time in New York with Iona Gaels. He provides some fantastic, level-headed advice about the NCAA. His PBs are 3:59i, 7:51i and 13:34 (video)

tbUSA – 3 years ago, you were well into your final year at St Mary’s. You had established yourself as one of the best distance athletes in the junior ranks. Did you see the NCAA as the best, or only, way of making that breakthrough to the senior ranks?

MG – For me, the NCAA was the best option to have optimum training and competition opportunities. I didn’t see it as impossible for me to breakthrough to the senior ranks by staying in England but it would have been in a less ideal environment and situation. I think I was on the verge of breaking through to the senior ranks based on a few performances before going to the NCAA and for a couple of reasons during my first year at Iona  actually took a few steps backward. But it’s a credit to the coaches that they were able to get me back better than ever.

tbUSA – Was your decision purely an athletic one, or was there an academic and social aspect to it too? Was the fact that Ben Lindsay also committed to Iona a help?

MG – The decision was mainly an athletic one but the option to attain a free master’s degree certainly played a part when weighing up whether staying in England was a better option.

I had committed and been talking to Iona a while before Ben had but when he decided that he was going to head over as well that obviously made me far less nervous about settling in over here. I had lived with Ben and we’d been training partners for the 3 years prior so it was kind of like, if certain things weren’t going to work out in the first couple of months at least we would have each other to lean on.

tbUSA – You chose Iona. A small school with no football team, and not even a track, but an incredible tradition with distance running. Was it this tradition, the city of New York or the setup that attracted you most? If not, what was it?

MG – Yeah, Iona’s great tradition really speaks for itself and made me confident about wanting to contribute to the legacy here. A big part for me was that I’ve never wanted the big university experience such as frat parties, football matches etc. What struck me most about Iona was how similar it was to St Mary’s, a small, heavy commuter population right on the doorstep of one of the greatest cities in the world and a proven record of success at long distance running.

The coaches were really honest with me and were likeable guys that understood the goals of a European athlete. When they spoke to me about their coaching philosophies it was something that I could really get on board with as I agreed with what they believed in, I knew that it would be a good fit. The no track thing really doesn’t matter; we have 4 or 5 tracks available to us that are not far at all. It’s not like in Norwich where you have to pay extortionate amounts of money to use a track.

Growing up in Norwich I was really fortunate to have really good off-road options for my steady and long runs and when I moved to St Mary’s I had the same thing with Richmond and Bushy Park. For that reason I wanted to go somewhere that had good options for staying away from the roads. When being recruited by Iona I thought, New York – concrete. It turned out not to be the case at all, we have some great trails here just over a mile from campus and we go to Rockefeller State Park for our long runs, even though we could run some pretty good long runs here it is just nice to run in such a beautiful park with a lot of undulations once a week.

There is no shame in not quite being ready to race as fast as you want early season because that isn’t the goal. It always seemed different to me back home, every week I felt pressure to try and be in prime race-shape.

I had got to know Ryan Sheridan, who was the captain at Iona when I was being recruited, at the World Cross in ’08 and I loved how passionate he was about the setup here. I had some good options for heading to the NCAA but the combination of what I’ve mentioned and Gavin Kennedy being one of the best recruiters in the game in my opinion made the decision quite easy when it came down to it.

tbUSA – Last year was your second year in the States, and after the initial year of bedding into the NCAA and its harsh system, you experienced one of those ‘in your face progression’ years. PBs lowered from 14:02 to 13:34, 8:10 to 7:51, a sub 4 minute solo mile and 1:50 over the half mile, AND NCAA XC All-American. Was that year a progression of hard work where results came or did you feel there was a sizeable shift in your training levels?

MG – That’s true, my progression was far more in your face than it really should have been because 2011 was pretty much a year of racing to stay active. I really wasn’t in great shape because of an injury prior to heading out to Iona and an illness following the cross country season so rather than maybe taking 15 seconds of my PB in 2011 and another 15 in 2012 I just took off 30 in 2012.

There were many factors that contributed to the progression. Before coming to the NCAA I had set goal times to run, I am yet to exceed those goals, and 2011 really knocked my confidence and enjoyment. Even though I was running really badly that year what I did manage to get after the indoor season for the first time in a couple of years was consistent training for well over 12 months.

By coming to the NCAA, my mentality completely changed, the bar was raised. Sub-14 means nothing out here if you want to be competitive at NCAA’s; sub-4 is starting to go that way as well. I enjoy racing over here so much and I go into every race excited to mix it with guys who are running Olympic A standards.

A big element a good training and race structure. There is no shame in not quite being ready to race as fast as you want early season because that isn’t the goal. It always seemed different to me back home, every week I felt pressure to try and be in prime race-shape. You had the road relays, BMCs etc. There is too much emphasis in trying to maintain almost a yearlong peak. It’s impossible. I have benefitted a lot from a clear structure that focuses on one or two big performance every 4-6 months.

I’ve also had the privilege of some great team mates as training partners that have really helped to bring my performances on. Going into this cross country season I think we had 7 or 8 guys that had ran 14.10 or under, on top of that we had another 4 or 5 who had ran faster than that during my initial two years that have graduated. That means I’ve had almost 15 sub-14.10 guys to train with over the past 2.5 years. If I could highlight one thing other than consistency and belief that brought on my progression, it would be training with Lenny Korir. Lenny won two NCAA titles here and ran 13.19 and 27.29. Last year we were working in tandem, when he was working hard I was able to stick with him, help him out and vice versa. I really couldn’t have asked for a better training partner. Even if he did make me do the majority of the donkeys work at the beginning of sessions, Lenny filled me with confidence.

tbUSA – You are undoubtedly the most prolific British athlete to have pulled off the NCAA/European XC double. Can you discuss this year’s decision not to try it again?

I didn’t go for it this year because I wanted to focus on getting some rest and a big build-up for the indoor season. That backfired because of an illness I picked up in mid-January so my indoor season was a write off!

It’s not as difficult top pull of as people think. Both years I just got myself into the qualifying position and kept calm. Coming off the back of Nationals, you know whether you’re fit enough or not and I’d say it’s important not to kid yourself.

The difficult aspect is being ready for the Euro XC because that’s when the intensity of those three weeks hit. With Regionals, Nationals and then the Euro trials you’re running 3 high quality 10k cross country races in 3 weeks with a lot of travel in between. Because of having no base training prior to the 2010 NCAA XC season (I tore my hamstring in July) I couldn’t really cope with those 3 races to then pull another one out of the bag for Euro XC and ran distinctly average, actually, it was bad. In 2011, because I had the consistent build up that I have previously spoken about, the 3 races didn’t affect me so much and I was able to perform better at the Euro XC. Tom Farrell certainly benefitted from not having to run the trial race and it was great to see him perform so well but people shouldn’t be scared about the NCAA/Euro XC double even if that involves having to fly back for the trial. They’re two of the most fun races to be a part of so if you’re fit enough, go for it.

tbUSA – Iona was looking extremely strong for this year’s National XC, but it didn’t quite pan out with a 29th place team finish.

MG – We had really high hopes going into Nationals but unfortunately everything fell apart. 3 weeks out we thought we had a shot at winning it, in hindsight we never would have matched OSU with their performance on that day, but it was almost the perfect storm of everything going wrong in the lead up and on the day. The most annoying aspect was that not much of it was anyone’s fault, we couldn’t pinpoint over training or ‘bottling it’ on the day. It was just various issues among each individual that came to a climax on the wrong day.

tbUSA – If you can avoid giving the Premier League footballer’s media-trained ‘one game at a time’ response, have you considered your future outside of college when the inevitable finally occurs next June?

MG – Certainly, it’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about since September. It’s obviously a pivotal moment in everyone’s life when they leave full-time education; I feel that for an NCAA athlete who aspires for a sports career post-college that moment can be even more overwhelming.

I have a few options and there are various factors that have to be considered. I’m going to be leaving here with a severe lack of funds so I’m going to have to try and find work as soon as I can unless I manage to find a reliable income from the sport which isn’t likely with the state of the sport as it is and my current standing in it. Before deciding on ideal locations and things for where I want to base myself for training I think I really need to work for a while and get some money to be able to support myself where I want to be located. I’m going to give running as good a go of it as I can for this Olympic cycle and will base most of my decisions around chasing the Olympic dream.

My girlfriend has one year left of studying at Providence College so in June I’m going to move to Providence so we can live together and I’ll be looking for work there. I’ll continue training and trying to progress and be in contention to make teams for major championships. As much as I have enjoyed being a Gael, I’m really excited for the next chapter in my life. Post-collegiate running with no support setup seems daunting when my goals are as high as they are but I have come to terms with being independent and self-reliant.

tbUSA – And lastly, any advice for athletes looking to the NCAA, especially given the current hike in tuition fees?

MG – I think the increase in tuition fees back home have made the NCAA option far more appealing than they were previously and that’s not even taking into the account the far superior running environment over here. I obviously did it differently but I do think that going to the NCAA as an undergraduate is the way to go now if you’re not set up with adequate support from UKA and getting paid decent money to run out of high school.

That being said, heading to a foreign country, likely the first time living away from home can be a big ask for an 18 year old. Not everyone will be ready for such a big change. Chances are you’ll adapt and love the experience but not everybody does.

Before committing anywhere, do plenty of research. It’s easy to find out a lot about the NCAA these days with trackboundUSA and Flotrack so there isn’t the excuse of not having information readily available. Talk to as many people as you can who are able to offer a first-hand perspective. Additionally, talk to as many NCAA coaches that you can as it is best to explore all of the options available to you. Try to take a visit to your prospective college and remember that you can always leave if you don’t like it.

tbUSA – And will Norwich survive (question posed in February) ?

MG – Yes and if not then Wolverine will go after whoever scores the goal that relegates us, or Paul Lambert.

Watch more video of 2012 Stanford Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on flotrack.org

 

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