Senior to Freshman: Forest MacKenzie

Meet of Champions 2018-257.jpgMy college choice was a long process. It’s a difficult task. To those deciding on schools and stressing over it, let me give you a tip. Well, let me give you a tip Evan Tanguay gave me. Take all the schools you’re looking at, or even thinking of looking at. Put them in a list, then write all the various aspects of a school you’re looking for. This could be “food”, “academics” or “team atmosphere” any aspect that could contribute to your decision. Once you’ve laid out your outline, rate the school on each of those variables. Add them up, get an average for each school and before you know it, the college choice is simplified and sitting in front of you. This is how I began my journey to The University of New Hampshire.

UNH is twenty minutes down the road from my house. It’s outrageously close. For that reason, I slept on it. I thought what I needed was somewhere else. I traveled all over in search of a University for me. I even took a trip out west to Michigan to tour Grand Valley State (Evan Tanguay’s school). I narrowed down my choices for school and made a table like the one I just described. For no reason in particular I threw UNH in with the colleges on my list.

On a 4-point scale, UNH was on top by over half a point. This led to me reaching out to Coach Boulanger and going through the recruiting process.

I announced my commitment and couldn’t be happier with my decision. To this day, it has been the best decision I have made in my life. Another tip, go to the school YOU want to go to. Not your coach, not your parents, it’s your life and trust me you’ll be happiest if the decision comes from your heart. In my case, there were factors pulling me towards different schools. Influence where there shouldn’t have been. It led to a rocky end to my senior year cross country season. In addition, I want to thank the New Hampshire community for the support. I can’t say enough good things about New Hampshire’s comradery and love for one another. When things went wrong for us at Concord, the state’s willingness to be there for us was truly a testament to the culture built by the running community. I am forever thankful for that.

With that being said, UNH has already been one of the best experiences of my life.

I had a challenging summer of training, a true grind from start to finish. As the stopwatch ticked closer to the season, my anticipation of the season grew each day. I hammered runs, daydreaming of the chance to compete for UNH. This led to a very solid base.

I arrived on campus a week before classes started. The first couple of days were spent getting used to the surroundings and learning about how things get done around here. Right away I knew this is the place for me.

The team atmosphere is unbelievable. Having everyone together working towards the same goals makes running so fun. Practice is the highlight of each day; I have never been happier to go out and get better. It’s a unique experience to train with guys you raced against, or with (there are 6 other Concord guys on the team) in high school. Our top 7 is entirely New Hampshire guys!

Training is another animal. In high school, we did long slow work. The focus was on getting time on the feet, at whatever pace. There were times where no run in a week was faster than 7:30 pace. Now, nearly every run is well below 7-minute pace regardless of the terrain. But because of the increase in fitness, the effort level remains relatively similar.

The big difference is the recovery process. UNH takes care of you. The trainer’s room is a runner’s oasis. Large tubs for ice baths, Normatec recovery boots at the ready and amazing trainers to help with the recovery for the next day. Having people to help has been a huge asset.

The king, Eliud Kipchoge says “Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions.” Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. To compete at this level, in the classroom, and on the trails, you must be disciplined. I am a Neuroscience and Behavior major. I have hours of homework every night. I am not complaining at all. I love it. I get to wake up early, get breakfast, go to my 8 AM and grind through classes and then practice with some of the best guys in the last couple of years in New Hampshire. It’s a dream come true. But without discipline, it would not be possible. College is where, if you do the right things, and make the right choices, you can fly high above the rest. It’s a place where the ones who can sacrifice their time to improving themselves will absolutely excel. Luckily, UNH, especially the Cross Country and Track programs, makes the ability to excel much more attainable.

I have had two races thus far. The first was a 5K at UNH against Providence and Holy Cross. This was a rust buster for us, a prelude to the season. We hadn’t completed any workouts, so it was a good demonstration of how we can improve. I placed 13th overall, and 3rd on UNH, running a 15:53. We were second as a team behind Providence.

In our second race of the season, we made the journey up to Orono for a dual meet against UMaine. At this point, we had a few workouts under our belts, so our fitness was much better. The ride up was certainly a change. A coach bus with comfortable seats, tv screens, and pre-made lunches carted us up there. A step up from the typical school bus! This race was our first 8k type distance of the season. I say “8K type distance” because the course is about 5.12 miles rather than the typical 4.97 (8K). This is cross country though, and times do not really matter too much.2018 Div 1 championship-169.jpg

In years past, we did not bring any of the top runners on our team. This year, we brought all but our top man, Nico Sevilla (former Pinkerton standout). The race was a huge success and gave our guys a huge confidence boost. We swept Maine going 1-2-3-4-5-6, something we were all very excited about (UMaine and UNH have a big rivalry). I have been waiting for longer races my whole career. To finally compete in one was amazing. Fortunately, I was able to win the race running a 25:45, a huge improvement compared to my first race. The other guys were not far behind and collectively we put together a great performance.

Next up on the schedule is “The Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown” in Boston. Teams from all over the United States will come to compete in Franklin Park. Teams like Syracuse, Boston College, and even Washington will be racing. I am beyond excited to represent New Hampshire on this massive stage.

There is no better feeling than representing my home state in what I love the most. I will continue my efforts, along with my teammates to make UNH a powerhouse. It’ll take time and discipline, but what more fitting aspects for a runner to focus on than time and discipline?

Roll Tide and Go Wildcats!

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