track and field recruiting

Columbia University 4 x 800m - 2007 Penn Relays

Licoln Financial Field

Written By: Liam Boylan Pett, Lope Magazine

“We’ve got Kansas, Oral Roberts, Mississippi State, LSU, Michigan, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Villanova all in this mix. But it’s Columbia, in the light blue, leading.”

That’s what Mark Floreani, announcing for FloTrack, said on April 28, 2007, when Erison Hurtault handed me the baton with a five-meter lead in the Penn Relays College Men’s 4×800 Championship of America. Our first leg, Mike Mark, handed off in third before Jonah Rathbun kept us in the race through two exchanges, handing off in fourth. Then Erison unleashed an unruly kick, passing seven runners on the final turn, and there we were: with two laps to go, Columbia University was in perfect position to win the 4×8 at Penn.

As noted by Floreani, who listed off eight other schools in tow, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Columbia hadn’t won a relay at Penn since 1938, and hadn’t won the 4×8 since 1933. No Ivy League school had won at the relays since 1974.

But there I was, leading in front of 46,363 spectators at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. It didn’t last long — 200 meters into the race, Prince Mumba of defending champion Oral Roberts, who had run more than three seconds faster than me in the 800, sprinted past me and into the lead. I hung as tight as I could, but by the final turn, I had slipped to third behind Mumba and Michigan’s Andrew Ellerton, who had finished second in the 800 at the NCAA Indoor Championships a month earlier.

“This is a great last 150 it’s gonna turn out to be,” Floreani said as we rounded the turn. “Ellerton and Prince Mumba, and Columbia is holding on there in third. This is a great run for Columbia.”

It seemed like that would be the last time Floreani would mention Columbia — and why would he as the two stars battled for victory? With 70 meters to go, Ellerton inched past Mumba, and entering the home straight, it seemed like that was it. Ellerton was poised to sprint away from Mumba for the win.

“Ellerton is on the shoulder of Prince and it looks like Ellerton”—then Floreani stopped. Just then, I moved to the outside and shifted gears, passing Mumba and pulling up on Ellerton’s right shoulder. With 60 meters to the finish line, I was even with Ellerton.

Floreani couldn’t contain the surprise in his voice as he interrupted himself: “But here comes Columbia.”

High School Cross Country Training: Are you running enough?

Cross Country Training

The discrepancy in high school cross country training is immense. I have coached individuals who maxed out at 30 miles per week in high school and others who exceeded 80 miles per week. There are so many different thoughts on mileage, staying healthy and avoiding burn-out.  The key is to find the optimal volume to ensure you reach your full potential as a runner. You need to identify the proper balance between enough and staying healthy – the edge. Approach it, but don’t cross over it.

I reached out to one of the top high school boy’s cross country coaches in the country, Coach Paul Vandersteen to take at closer look at the type of mileage the boys at Neuqua Valley High Schools are logging over the summer.

Freshman Boys: 35 – 40 miles per week

Sophomore Boys: 50 – 55 miles per week

Junior Boys: 60 – 65 miles per week

Senior Boys: 70  - 75 miles per week

*** However, their weekly mileage rarely exceeds 65 miles per week once school starts.


High school girls who want to follow this program’s volume philosophy should adjust accordingly:

Freshman Girls: 25 – 30 miles per week

Sophomore Girls: 35 – 40 miles per week

Junior Girls: 45 – 50 miles per week

Senior Girls: 50 - 55 miles per week

For more information about our personal coaching programs CLICK HERE

Arkansas Track and Field Recruiting - Class of 2022 - Men


College Track and Field Recruiting

Are you wondering what it takes to run compete in the SEC? See how stack up with the University of Arkansas incoming track and field recruiting class - 

Vernon Turner, High Jump | Yukon, Okla./ Yukon High School / University of Oklahoma
Event: High Jump
Personal Best: High Jump – 7’7.75”

Tre’Bien GilbertHurdles | Converse, Texas / Judson High School
Events: 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles
Personal Bests: 110-meter hurdles – 13.53, 300-meter hurdles – 36.18

Rashad Boyd, Sprints | Houston, Texas / Alief Hastings High School
Events: 100-meters, 200-meters
Personal Bests: 100m – 10.61 (10.55w), 200m – 20.93
Accolades: TSU Relays 200-meter champion, 200-meter state qualifier, Texas Relays 100-meter finalist
Boyd on Arkansas: “What gets better than the Arkansas track team?”

Boyd was the twelfth-fastest high school 200-meter runner in the United States during 2018. He placed sixth in the 200-meter final at Texas 6A State Championship and was the Texas 6A Region III runner-up in 200m. His brother, Rakeem Boyd, is an Arkansas football signee.

Travean Caldwell, Sprints and Hurdles | Crossett, Ark. | Crossett High School / Arkansas Baptist College
Events: 400-meters, 400-meter hurdles
Personal Bests: 200-meters – 21.69, 400-meters – 47.30, 400-meter hurdles – 52.77

Kevin Wilkinson, Middle Distance | Moorpark, Calif. | Bishop Alemany High School / Arizona State University
Events: 800-meters, 1500-meters
Personal Bests: 800-meters – 1:50.91, 1,500-meters – 4:00.81

Trey Grayson, Middle Distance | Glenpool, Okla.| Glenpool High School / Oklahoma State University
Events: 400-meters, 800-meters
Personal Bests: 800-meters – 1:51.49, 1,600-meters – 4:16.10, 3,200-meters – 9:43.63

Carl Elliott, Sprints and Hurdles| Fort Pierce, Fla. | Fort Pierce Central High School / Edward Waters College
Events: 200-meters, 110-meter hurdles, triple jump
Personal Bests: 200-meters – 21.66, 110-meter hurdles – 14.24, TJ – 45’1.25”, LJ – 21’7”

Kyle Costner, Multi-Events | Brentwood, Tenn. | Brentwood High School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 11.41, 400-meters – 50.2, 110-meter hurdles – 14.81, LJ – 22’1”, TJ – 42’5”, HJ – 6’2”, PV – 13’, SP – 40’, DT – 114’, Decathlon – 6,309-points

Brittan Burns, Multi-Events | Prior Lake, Minn. | Lakeville South High School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 11.85, 400-meters – 52.99, 1,500-meters – 4:52, 110-meter hurdles – 15.24, LJ – 21’8.75”, HJ – 6’4”, PV – 12’6”, SP – 38’1”, DT – 109’4”, JV – 117’8”, Decathlon – 5,873-points

Daniel Spejcher, Multi-Events | Bloomington, Ill. | Lake Park High School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 11.2, 200-meters – 22.3, 400-meters – 53.2, 110-meters hurdles – 14.99, LJ – 22’11.75”, HJ – 6’3”, PV – 10’6”, SP – 45’4”, DT – 127’6”, JV – 125’8”, Decathlon – 5,715-points

Connor Holzkamper, Multi-Events | Keller, Texas | Liberty Christian School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 10.90, 200-meters – 22.48, 400-meters – 55.18, HJ – 5-6

Jon Conley, Sprints/Jumps | Fayetteville, Ark. | Fayetteville High School
Events: 100-meters, Long Jump


When To Start Nudging Our Young Track and Field Athletes Toward Greatness



Parents of track and field athletes

In a recent conversation with a parent of an elite 7th Grade runner from Massachusetts, I was asked when would be the best time for her to start getting serious about her training. I realized that despite my thirty years of NCAA I Head Coaching experience, I had never given this subject matter a great deal of thought. In my role as a college coach, I was accustomed to dealing with older runners and had never really given much thought to the beginning of the process.

We often read about college coaches signing multi-million dollar contracts, and yet the men and women in the trenches of creation – the coaches out there helping plant the seeds of determination and skill development are typically volunteering parents. As a result, it is easy to assume that the system works and that the most talented athletes will eventually rise to the top. However, it is quite possible that this “wait-for-the-fire-to-ignite-within” approach to skill development and commitment levels in the sport of track and field is selling our future elite athletes short.

Imagine a young musician, artist or scientist delaying the development of their skill-set simply to avoid burnout. As coaches and parents, we oftentimes sit back, waiting for the young athlete to find their passion – as if it is sleeping within simply waiting to be awoken. A new joint study by researchers from Yale- Singapore and Stanford University states that “the ‘find your passion’ mantra may be a hindrance, distracting the individual from the actualization of their potential.”

In that study, researchers asked the question, “Are interests there all along, waiting to be revealed or must a spark of interest be cultivated through investment and persistence?” From the results of this study, it appears that developing and nurturing passion can be highly effective, particularly when compared to taking a wait and see approach. With more deliberate action, it becomes the responsibility of the participant and their network of support to help grow that “passion” through a systematic plan of logical progression and pedagogy. 

So, how does this apply to your elite junior high track and field athlete? Maybe, it is time to rethink the traditional model in our sport of waiting for that inner fire to ignite or for the tangible line in the sand to be crossed at a particular age. Perhaps, with a sound training plan and the right encouragement – we can develop these middle school athletes into highly successful high school, collegiate and post-collegiate runners by getting them started earlier.

We must ask ourselves how do we start developing this passion in a healthy manner. A former runner of mine at Columbia University and highly touted author, David Epstein (See – The Sport’s Gene) suggests that positive feedback is linked to higher performance. He cited research by sports psychologist

Christian Cook in which subjects performed better and were less likely to repeat mistakes when they were given positive feedback at an early age of participation. “I don’t know if it’s counterintuitive that positive feedback works, but it’s not the intuitive way for [coaches] to act,” Epstein says, explaining that coaches naturally identify what’s wrong and instruct athletes how to improve. “If you had to choose between needing feedback when we did something wrong or when we did something right, I’m convinced now it’s when we did something right. And that’s when people don’t give feedback,” he says. “They pay attention to what’s wrong.” So, during this time – clap before correcting. There will be plenty of time to correct in the future.

Epstein’s thoughts were reiterated in a recent article by Jenny Anderson entitled, “ Parents: Let Your Kids Fail. You’ll Be Doing Them a Favor”. She lists three ways in which we can help younger athletes develop their passion and succeed:

            1. Praise efforts, not outcomes (clap before correcting)

            2. Cheer like a grandparent, not a parent. (clap before correcting)

            3. Realize the coach is your partner, not your adversary.

For a tangible example of how effective helping younger athletes develop their passion can be -  look no further than this year’s World Cup. According to Troy Engle (former USMA Head Track and Field Coach and current Director of Coach Development for Sport Singapore), Belgium and France have  “Two of the greatest sporting systems and coaching development programs in any sport in the world. Hardly a coincidence that they are among the four remaining team…there is a lot for all of us to gain from their best practices”

To answer the initial question of when is the logical time to get started with a more formalized plan for younger runners hoping to become elite runners. I would suggest somewhere between ages 11-13.

Training with Olympic Gold Medalist William Tanui and Fast Track Recruiting


 Want to train like an Olympic Gold Medalist from Kenya? If so, William Tanui has provided Fast Track Recruiting with unmatched access to the inside through an open discussion about how he trained. Below is a summary of the Kenyan training philosophy and practices following the conclusion of their outdoor season.  

NOTE: William Tanui was the 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 800m and placed 5th in the 1500m at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.  Tanui has PR’s of 1:43.30 in the 800m, 3:30.58 in the 1500m and 3:50.57 in the Mile.

Phase I – rest

You need to fully recover, both mentally physically, from your previous season. I suggest a complete shutdown. Use this time to ensure that you are completely recovered and fully prepared to resume training.

Editor's Note: Kenyan runners place a high premium on rest - "complete rest". It is imperative that you incorporate this phase into your summer training as it is equally as important. In the US system, we are often extremely impatient and rush back to training and quality running way too quickly. 

Phase II – General Preparation - During this phase, your focus should be on leisurely low-end aerobic work. I suggest focusing on very easy running and cross training during this phase – swimming, biking and strength training. Everything should be performed at a low intensity. In the prime of my career, I would perform five two-hour sessions per week. I would advise that you start with a much lower goal duration.                                                                                                                                                                    

Editor's Note - The Kenyans use this time to develop a massive aerobic base with low-intensity work. Many of the top collegiate programs loosely adhere to this same philosophy as most good programs avoid quality work as they ascend to full volume. 

Phase III – Early Season

During this phase, we start to increase the intensity. At this point, you should start doubling when appropriate. You should focus on high-end aerobic work during this phase through progression runs, runs at a steady pace and hilly runs ( Editor's Note - read Run With The Buffaloes or research old-school Arkansas training).  This is a great time to focus on hill repeats to strengthen your quads. We also perform two days of strength work a week to strengthen our arms for the push to the finish line.

Phase IV – Late Season

This phase will be the most intense period of your training. We do traditional interval work two days a week, if not racing. We do a great deal of ladder work, often including short speed reps toward the end of the session. We also did a fartlek session once a week in a wide open field where the focus was on very fast running.

Look for future articles from William Tanui about coaching, international recruiting and other subjects related to running and track and field.

See how 2017 World Championship 1500m FInalist, Johnny Gregorek trained over the summer while in college here: