By Luke Tkaczyk
For the class of 2021 it was a roller coaster being recruited and attempting to be able to compete at the collegiate level. With dead periods, and travel restrictions it was difficult to find a program that fit my needs. Another challenge was that most people had to use their sophomore times to be recruited. Luckily my coaches had me doing workouts and time trials all around the state of New Hampshire. I feel very lucky to have a family and coaches that were willing to help me out with purely producing fast times to be recruited.
When it came time to be recruited I was able to make a list of schools that I thought I would enjoy. After many phone calls, text messages and zoom calls I decided I would visit Siena College and Appalachian State University. During my visit to Siena, I ran with two guys named Tommy and Luciano. Tommy is a captain on my team now and Luciano graduated last year and is running semi-professional for a local track club where he broke four in the mile and barely missed the Olympic trials in the 800 meters. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed myself during the tour of Siena and running with some of the guys on the team. The recruitment process went smoothly talking with Coaches John Kenworthy and Nick Miller, and I decided to commit to Siena. It was a great choice because I feel at home here.
On August 23rd 2021, I left for school and moved in two weeks early. I rushed to move into my room, so I could then go to practice and meet my new teammates. I was able to fit in very well, and everyone on the team was very helpful and easy to talk to. I was questioned many times, “So you’re from New Hampshire… I didn’t even know New Hampshire was a real place.” After some talking about where we are from and everything about it, a junior on the team mentioned something about attending Camp Foss running camp back when he was in high school. That was a cool connection that we made seeing how Camp Foss is only a few minutes down the road from my house.
After spending a couple days on campus, all of us on the cross country team had to pack up our bags and get on a bus headed to Camp Forest Lake, located in the Adirondacks of New York. The men’s team was split up into two separate cabins, we unpacked our bags and then left for our first run which was on trails coming from the camp. Every day was filled with fun activities in the water and games on land like basketball, volleyball, and many other cornhole games. At the end of each night we had a campfire and we did team “icebreakers ” to introduce ourselves to each other and do things to make everyone feel comfortable around each other. I was fortunate enough to be able to do some of the team’s famous runs such as the River Road Long Run, and visit many other great places. This camp made great memories and was the perfect way to get all of us teammates bonded with each other.
After the camp was over, I still had some time on campus with just athletes, and no classes. This was such an advantage for me because I was able to develop a firm grasp on where everything was, and what to do in order to know my way around campus. My teammates were able to show me around to places and give great suggestions on where to get food on campus. My teammates would also take me along with other freshmen to the store to get some groceries so that we could have them in our room. That was amazing because without them I would have had to get creative and take an Uber or a bus due to the fact that freshmen can’t have cars on campus. I spent many hours just hanging out in the junior’s townhouse talking about random things and playing Mario Kart.
The training from high school to college has been relatively similar with the main change being an increase in daily mileage. The extra mileage has come from slightly longer runs, but mostly longer cool downs after a workout, which I have found to be very beneficial to me because it helps loosen the legs up. Another difference that has become apparent to me is the increased volume in workouts such as 20x200m hills in the middle of an eleven mile distance run. It is a great way to get ready for the added three kilometers to all of the races.
A question that arose early on in the season between my coach and I was the idea of redshirting my freshman cross country season so that I would have eligibility later on in my career. After racing my first race unattached, we decided it would be a good idea for me to attempt to contribute to the team and run as an attached member of the team. I think that this was a good decision seeing how I am feeling strong right now and also running the workouts well. My weekly mileage has been the highest it has ever been in my life, and I am feeling great doing it which gives me confidence moving forward.
So far I have had two races, both being an 8k. It has been a learning experience because I have so little experience in that distance. When I raced at my home meet, it was a very difficult course so I was not worried about time as much as I was worried about feeling good running fast. My second race was at the Paul Short Invitational, where I was put into the gold race for the meet which had some of the best programs from all around the country. I was not anticipating how chaotic it would be, and I started out far too conservative. I could never really get it going because of how many bodies were around me. I finished with a time of 26:33, which wasn’t what I was shooting for, but I will attack the rest of the season with the knowledge I have gained in my first two races.
I would like to thank all of New Hampshire Cross Country for all the memories that were made throughout my four years. They will never be forgotten along with all of the people I have met along the way. Good luck to everyone with the remainder of your season!
Go Bears and Saints!