Next Level Stories - Issue #1 - Sean Donohue


A Series – Next Level Stories: Life As a College Athlete #1 Sean Donohue
Starting a new series on NJRunners covering college T&F athletes from DIII to DI and how they chose, enjoy, and survive their transition and lifestyle at the next level. NJR is hoping that these articles will help high school athletes looking for schools and who are deciding where or if they even want to compete at the collegiate level. Let us show some light onto the mystery to help make some decisions or ease some tensions. We will try to hit all three divisions, views from men and women, and to hit athletes from all disciplines distance, sprinters, throwers, and jumpers.
(NOTE* The first few articles in this series are being re-published, I had started the series on another site I was running before NJRunners.)
In our first article we interviewed Sean Donohue a past Shore Conference distance athlete from Matawan.
Where’s your home town / High School? Which College or University did you grace with your presence?
SEAN: I am from Cliffwood Beach, New Jersey, I went to Matawan Regional High School, After High School I decided to attend Rider University.
What year are you in? What division is your college or university in? What is your field of study?
SEAN: I am currently a junior at Rider, which is a division one school, I am a Communications major focusing in PR and have a Minor in the Business of Sports
Did you go far away from home? Do you like your decision?
SEAN: I decided to stay close enough to home to visit every once and a while but far enough away  so that it gave me a new surrounding, I have no regrets about my decision.  I think that Rider was a good fit for me.
What events do you handle?
SEAN: My main event in Track is the 5-k and 10-k.  The 10-k is my strongest event.  I do see a 3-k a few times indoors.
Any kind of accomplishments during your high school and or collegiate careers? Don’t be modest!
SEAN: My high school career was pretty average, I ran 4:31 for the 1600 and 9:46 for the  3200, had a 16:21 5-k PR  on a flat course not Holmdel where I ran 17:10 at best and those were the last few races my senior year. Since  I arrived at Rider I have seen a lot of improvement in my times, but also in race tactics and learning to be patient. I have run 14:46 for 5-k, 30:45 for 10-k, and have qualified for the IC4A Championship in the 10-k.
What kind of mileage per week do you handle there? Sorry, I know this is a broad question for a long varying season, just kind of walk us through.
SEAN: In high school I gradually built from my freshman year from 30 miles per week up to about 60 miles per week by senior year.  In college I started building up more and currently I run about 90 to 100 miles a week. Tends to be higher during Cross Country Season.
Do you sometimes see your old high school teammates in races, or past rivals for that matter?
SEAN: All the time, which I pretty cool for me because most of them were far better than I was in high school and now I can actually compete with them.  But getting to see familiar faces are always fun and seeing people compete for new schools and programs when you still associate them with the high school they went to.
Sean Donohue finishing a race representing Rider University (Runner to the right.)
You are presumably running all three seasons, in college that is a sport with no offseason, how do you handle it? Or do you even notice?
SEAN: It is all about recovery and living a good lifestyle to get through the year healthy and ready to compete at a high level year round. Eating right, getting sleep, getting work done early to reduce stress and even something as arbitrary as good hygiene all play into not wearing yourself down over a long and demanding year of training and competition.  Freshmen year was tough at times because now there is no one there to make sure you are doing the things your are suppose to do outside of practice the accountability falls on you. Running at this level is very much become a rewarding lifestyle and now as a junior it all comes much easier.
Is the athletic workload too much to handle with the school workload?
SEAN: It is all about time management in college when you’re an athlete.  There will be times that you have a lot going on at the same time, meets and big exams in the same week.  It can be a lot be there will also be easier times where you are just training and there are no meets coming up.  It is these easier times when you can really make up a lot of ground and make life easier by getting projects and studying out of the way.  That is what I have found to work for me.
What was your hardest workout?
SEAN: One of the toughest workouts I did recently was a 6 by mile interval workout that was progressive going from tempo pace to 5-k goal pace.  My mile splits were 5:11, 5:04, 4:58, 4:48, 4:43, and 4:39 with 3 minutes rest in between followed by 5 by 200 running 29, 30, 29, 28, 27, that was a confidence boasting workout leading into the heart of this years indoor season.
What is the real difference between college running and high school running?
SEAN: My high school coaches had a much more laid back approach.  In was more about doing your best seeing what you could do. Plus high school coaches will make sure you do everything you are suppose to do. In college it is expected that you are going to do everything possible to make yourself the best you can be and there are higher expectations, least in the program I am in.  My coach paints a clear picture for us and is a great motivator. He has said,” We do not just want to be good, because that’s not that hard to do, many can be good at something, we want more, we want to be great.” Our goal as a team every year is to win a conference championship and individuals is to win or be as high in standings as we can push ourselves.
Do you feel your sport holds respect or importance at your school?
SEAN: The program at Rider is up and coming since I got here, Bob Hamer became the new head coach a year before I got to Rider and he has really brought the program back to life and is helping it to represent the school in a positive light.  I think in years to come the program will continue to grow and represent my University well, and gain the respect that it deserves.
How do you feel about your Division of athletics?
SEAN: It is tough. Division one is no joke, it is highly competitive and to qualify for anything is a challenge.  Distance race wise it gets harder every year because there are so many people who are getting faster and faster in each event.  I think that’s the same in all Divisions except in D1 the talent pool is getting ridiculously deep now that people who would have been going to nationals ten years ago can barely get to the regional meet.
Anything else to say about life as a (DI, DII, DIII) runner? Do you recommend it to incoming HS athletes?
SEAN: Being a runner in college at any level is a great experience.  I recommend that anyone thinking about doing it, to go for it, it can be an experience that is life changing. Talk to as many people involved in collegiate sports as you can, e-mail coaches and sell yourself, there are so many kids that they may be looking at. If you think you have found a program you like, take an official visit and get to know your potential coach and teammates.  These are all recommendations of things I did 3 years ago, and looking back I know that I made the right choice and would not want to be anywhere else.
Thanks to Sean Donohue for the awesome interview. I hope this article and series helps high school track and field athletes looking into competing at the next level. We will continue this series every Tuesday so keep an eye out.