As student athletes move through high school, eventually they turn their attention to college. In doing so, they often contemplate whether they should continue to compete in college or not. I chose to compete in college and enjoyed my experience greatly, but is certainly not for everyone.
For most, their career will come to a close when they graduate HS. Whether you plan on competing in college or not should have absolutely no bearing on your HS career. Run because you enjoy it. Run because many of your friends are also your teammates. Run because it’s a healthy, stress relieving activity. Regardless of why you run, I hope they have enjoyed their HS experience and made the most of every moment. Eventually, you may run some local 5k’s or even a marathon, but these still don’t compare to a season of training and competing as part of a team. HS is the only opportunity to compete for the town you grew up in and with the kids you grew up with.
For those looking to explore the option of college competition, there is a lot to think about. Many factors should be taken into account when deciding on a college: cost, location, academics, size, and of course team dynamics. Although running might be your passion, make sure all other aspects are taken just as seriously. Here are just a few things to think about regarding team dynamics. Do you want to compete right away and be a part of the top 7 as a freshman? Or do you want to have to move your way up and maybe crack top 7 as a junior or senior? Is the team coed? What is the training philosophy of the coach? Mileage? Morning or evening practices? Flexibility around academic classes? Make sure these match what you are looking for and expecting.
Another thing to think about is level of college competition: Division 1, 2, or 3, or NAIA. There are several options. While D1 gets most of the publicity, I have really come to think highly of what D3 has to offer. While D1 is best suited for elite HS athletes D3 seems to be a great option for most others. There seems to be a great pride and passion within these programs where there are no scholarships and usually no cuts either. Where as D1 teams usually have small teams due to roster limitations, D3 teams are often huge and have tons of camaraderie. They also have a wide range of abilities up to the elites who could compete on any nationally ranked D1 team.
There certainly is a lot to take into account, so do your homework and be as knowledgeable as you can be. But before you look too far ahead, don’t forget to live in the present and embrace the journey.