Posted: July 21, 2003
Athletics: The US College Athletics Scholarship Experience - Part I
Tracy Montgomery, Mary Jane (MJ) Middelkoop, and Stephanie Duffy are currently members of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team, an Ottawa based women's running and triathlon club. All three attended university in the US on athletic scholarships. The Runner's Web asked them about their scholarship experience. This is part one of a three part series. This column interviews Tracy Montgomery.
Name: Tracy Montgomery
1. Runner's Web (RW): Could you describe the recruiting process and how you came to be offered an athletic scholarship - how the initial contact was made, whether a high school or club coach was involved, did you communicate with the university head coach or an assistant, etc.
Tracy Montgomery (TM): My experience was different than most. I was not a top ranked high school runner but I figured I was still good enough to run with a smaller school team, so I made contact with the schools that interested me. I was offered a Cross Country and Softball scholarship (because I hated running track). My high school and club coaches were not involved and I always spoke with Coach Mederios and Coach Cameron the head coaches at West Georgia.
2. RW: Once the scholarship was offered, did you accept immediately? If not what processes did you go through such as discussion with family, local coaches, peer groups, etc.? Were you offered a four-year deal or a one-year renewable scholarship?
TM: Once I received my letter of intent, I signed right away. I had already ruled out all the other schools. After meeting Coach Mederios, my parents felt a lot more comfortable with my choice. Coach Mederios and I got along very well from the start. I was offered a one year renewable scholarship. My understanding was four year deals were not signed but it was hard to not be renewed on a one year.
3. RW: How much communication was there between you and the university from the time you accepted until you arrived at the school?
TM: I spoke with Coach Mederios probably once a week, until I arrived at West Georgia.
4. RW: After arriving at the school, what was your initial response (over the first few weeks) to your decision to accept the scholarship?
TM: Awesome. Beautiful campus, lots of friendly people, lots of hard training and I didn't even get home sick a bit. Certainly the right choice.
5. RW: Describe your feelings for the first month or so after you started training with the team? How did you feel you fit into the team from a performance perspective? How many other first year recruits were there? Were you accepted immediately by team members that had been there a year or more? Did you ever seriously question your decision in the first few months?
TM: It was a bit of a strange situation because it was the first year my school had a full women's team. This meant, that all of us were coming in as freshmen on the same level so there were no more experienced teammates to deal with. To my surprise I ran number one for my team and never second guessed my decision.
6. RW: What was the greatest issue you encountered throughout your time at the university?
TM: After one year of playing softball, I gave up that portion of my scholarship and decided to run on the hated track.
7. RW:Did you continue to run for a local club when you came home for the summer?
TM: I came home my first summer and trained with a friend. The other summers I stayed in Georgia, worked and trained with friends.
8. RW: What you consider your best performances while at university and why?
TM: I won the Gulf South Conference Cross Country Championship my senior year. In front of our entire team my assistant coach told us that my teammate and training partner would be winning the championship. It's always fun to win when you have already been counted out.
9. RW: Did you feel pressure to race when you felt you were not ready? Were you asked (directed) to double or triple or run an event that was not your normal racing distance? How were you treated when (if) you were injured and could not compete?
TM: I never felt too much pressure. One day after a miserable attempt at a hard workout by myself on a very hot day I went back to the athletic office upset about not finishing the workout. Coach Mederios took me out for pancakes.
10. RW: Did competing (and travelling) interfere with your academic schedule?
TM: Not at all. I work harder when I am busy. My team earned Academic All American Honors
11. RW: Describe your "typical" racing season in terms of numbers of meets, location in terms of travel requirements, distances raced, doubling or tripling for points, etc.
TM: Cross country season ran from the beginning of September through November (when we made nationals) with races almost every weekend. We traveled all over the south eastern states. Track was more relaxed and seen more as off season training for cross country. We ran what ever we wanted. I ran the 5000 so it was rare for me to double up events.
12. RW: What do you estimate your scholarship was worth over the four years? Looking back on your experience do you feel there was a balance between your athletic contribution and the academic benefits you gained?
TM: I'm not sure what my scholarship was worth. West Georgia was ranked in the nation for their education department so I fell my education was top notch. We won conference as a team 3 out of the 4 years so I think we made a good contribution to the school.
13. RW: Would you recommend the scholarship route to others , unconditionally or with conditions?
TM: I think a scholarship is a great way to pay for school and explore your potential as an athlete. The most important factor in deciding on a school is the coach (and of course the academic program). You spend so much time with the coach, you have like his philosophy.
14. RW: What were the highs and lows of your years at university, both from an athletics and an academic perspective?
TM:The low was easily my freshman year ITBand injury I suffered during softball season. I did not run for months , this made me go crazy. The academic low was having to take American politics.
15. RW: Overall how would you rate your experience?
TM: I had a great experience.
16. RW: After leaving the university did you continue to compete or run? If so at what level? If not, for how long did you stop and why?
TM: I ran just for my own pleasure. No racing. I am just now getting back into harder running for the purpose of racing triathlons.
17. RW: Last comments - feel free to touch on anything not covered previously.
TM: I loved my experience at West Georgia. I wouldn't change it for anything.
More on Tracy:
This is part I of a 3 part feature. Next week's column will be an interview with Stephanie Duffy
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