Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vicki Huber on the Transition from High School to College Running

Making transition to college won't always be quick out of the blocks
Special to The News Journal
16 August 2011

By the time my senior year of track rolled around, I was ready to move on. My friend and biggest competitor, Monica, and I had both committed to colleges. So all we needed to do was race each other at the state meet and then head to the beach to get tan for the prom. I didn't actually take the season that lightly, but I was ready for a change and very excited to see what college was like.

I am not sure why I thought it would be an easy transition from high school to college running, but when I was packing my stuff, I included my field hockey stick in hopes that I would be able to hit around with the hockey team at 'Nova. I wasn't planning on running cross country, mostly because I never had and was under the impression that my new coach and I had discussed me running fall track instead. Two weeks before arriving at Villanova, my new coach and I had a little disagreement about cross country.

It was not the best way to start a new relationship. I quickly realized that not only did I have no choice in the matter, but I also would not have the chance to break out my hockey stick.

Still, I was excited to get to college. Most of the girls on the track team roomed together, and my new roommate was an 800- meter runner from Connecticut. We had touched base many times; I was bringing the matching comforters and she was bringing the television.

The day we freshmen arrived to move in, the team and our coaches came together for a family picnic. Everyone seemed very nice, and my spirits were high, until it was time for my parents to leave. Suddenly, I felt like a little girl, and I didn't want to be left behind in the small room with bunk beds and a metal slab for a desk.

The next day at our first practice, I struggled to keep up with the other girls. In high school, I was a bit of a big fish in a little pond. At Villanova, I was definitely the littlest fish in the pond. I discovered that most of the other freshman recruits knew each other because they all had competed in an indoor invitational. The winner of the race had broken the high school national record and went on to Georgetown while the rest of the field were now my teammates.

For a few months, I will admit, I cried a lot. Everything was different, and not only did I have to adjust to my new training, I had to adjust to school as well as college life. Girls in the dorm were up all night and seemed to want to hang out right in front of my door. The dining hall had certain hours, so it always seemed that we were rushing from practice to get in the doors before they stopped serving.

Practice was hard.

Before I left for college, my club coach had sent me off with the best advice he could have given me. He told me not to worry about being in the front of the pack or "winning" any workouts. As a freshman, there would be plenty of time to improve. It wasn't like I had much of a choice. The back of the pack was the best I could manage for most of the year.

At the end of the year, I had adjusted well. My grades were good, and I finished my first season running in the NCAA cross country meet, anchoring a Penn Relays distance medley, and just missing the NCAA outdoor meet by a few seconds in two events.

Taking the next step in life can be both scary and exciting. To those athletes who are moving on to compete in college, I would say the same thing my coach told me. Relax, take your time to adjust to everything and don't try to be the best right away. There is plenty of time to become the best.

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