Courtesy of Fergus Cullen
Rachel Schneider, 24 years old, is a 2009 graduate of Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover and a 2013 graduate of Georgetown University, where she majored in Human Science and minored in Philosophy. She stayed at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies to earn a Master’s in Sports Industry Management in 2015.
In her senior year of cross country in high school in 2008, Rachel placed second in the D-2 championship (then called Class I) in 18:49 at Derryfield Park, then ran 18:23 at Mine Falls to place fifth overall in the Meet of Champions. In spring track, she won the Class I and Meet of Champions titles in the 1600. She won New England titles in both the 800 and 1600 that spring, and left high school with PRs of 2:11 and 4:51 respectively.
Rachel got even better at Georgetown, where she was a five-time All American and lowered her PRs to 2:04 for the 800 and 4:10 for the 1500. She’s since lowered that to 4:06.9 and is ranked 25th in the world right now. She placed fifth in the USATF national championships in the 1500 last June. She is currently training for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Follow her on Instagram & Twitter @rachschneid18
Q: Tell us about your experiences running high school cross country. What are some of your favorite memories of your high school running years?
Schneider: Going into high school I was actually a year-round soccer player who ran track in junior high more to keep in shape than anything else. I played soccer my freshman year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and was on the swim team as my winter sport. The track coach needed another person for an indoor relay team and heard I was a decent runner, so asked if I could run in a meet or two that season. I ended up finishing that season doing both swim and indoor track. I quickly fell in love with the track team and running, and after my freshman year outdoor season I switched to running year round my sophomore year.
Cross Country was completely new to me, but I absolutely loved how much of a team sport it was. I still miss the long, fun bus rides, the team warm-ups and huddles, the parents waiting under our team tent, and stopping for pizza or fast food on the way home. Some of my favorite cross country memories are those meets when it was super rainy, muddy and we were all freezing but having so much fun getting completely covered in dirt. I also loved what a community NH running is! It was so fun getting to know runners, coaches, and officials from around the state! It’s such a tight-knit, fun, supportive community and I think that’s really special to NH running.
Schneider: The transition from high school to D-1 running was really exciting for me. I did a lot of my high school training alone and never really had a set training plan or routine. D-1 running meant having coaches whose full-time jobs are coaching, as well as teammates to train with and push me on a daily basis, an individualized training plan, strength and rehab resources, and opportunities to compete around the country with and against the best collegiate runners. Running became a much greater part of my life and dictated my schedule. Fortunately, I loved that! Having teammates who quickly became a second family to me, and coaches that brought such passion and enthusiasm to practice every day made the transition so easy. I loved the increased intensity, the ability to learn from and train with some of the best runners and coaches in the country, and the opportunities to compete at the highest levels. It was all so exciting and fun for me. I was also excited about the prospect of living in a city, meeting new people, and having more independence – so that helped with the transition, too.
Q: What advice do you have to high school runners who would like to continue to compete in at the college level. What things should they be considering as they look at schools they might like to attend?
Schneider: Simple, and perhaps a little cliche: have an idea of what you want from your college experience, get to know the college and running program as best as you can, have an understanding of your priorities, and then put everything aside at some point and listen to your heart. There are hundreds of awesome colleges out there, each with a unique running program and you might have a lot of people trying to pull you in different directions – but it’s you who will be living those four years, so choose what you believe will be the best fit for you.
Ask questions!! Get to know the coaches, the team, and the school as best as you can so you can make a more informed decision! When I chose to attend Georgetown – quite a few people were confused. I had gotten into Ivy League schools, I had multiple full-scholarship offers to great universities, and Georgetown was not only one of the worst financial offers I had, but it also arguably had the worst training facilities (Georgetown doesn’t have their own track and uses a 4-lane, 320m public track for practices). Despite that, my heart was undeniably telling me to go to Georgetown – and to this day I believe it is the best decision I’ve ever made. I was so excited to have the opportunity to run for Georgetown because they have such an incredible running history and are consistently one of the top programs in the country. I knew going in that I would be one of the slowest runners in the program – but the thought of that made me so excited! I couldn’t wait to surround myself with people who were better than me and who wanted to push me to the next level. I loved that everyone on the team had such a genuine passion for running and wanted to be the best they could be, and help their teammates be the best they could be. I was blown away by the culture – there was this standard of working extremely hard, but also having a lot of fun every day. They set big goals, and weren’t afraid to go after them. The coaches cared so deeply about your running, but cared about you even more as a person. It was a place I knew I would be challenged both athletically and academically, while being surrounded by people I couldn’t wait to call teammates and friends, and coaches and professors who truly cared about me. So, put simply: I think if you listen to your heart, you’ll never regret that decision.
Schneider: Haha I am sponsored by Under Armour but don’t have business cards! It is still rather funny/odd to write and say “Professional Athlete” when I’m asked what my career is! I feel incredibly blessed to be able to pursue my passion at the highest level and to be so wonderfully supported by Under Armour, Total Sports Agency, my coach, and of course my family and friends. It’s unbelievable how many amazing opportunities running has opened up for me and the incredible people it has connected me to. My first year as a professional was filled with great experiences and lots of lessons. Thinking of this upcoming year makes me beyond excited!
Q: What’s next for Rachel Schneider?
Schneider: I’m currently living and training in Flagstaff, Arizona to get in a good fall of base/strength training. In January I’ll move back to Washington, DC to train with my coach and work with the Georgetown team! I’ll start competing towards the end of January, but the main focus will be doing everything we can to get to the Olympic Trials in the best possible shape. I missed making the USA Outdoor World Championship team by 1 place and 0.01 seconds this year in the 1500m, and want to do everything I can to be on Team USA heading to Rio!
Q: Good luck Rachel!