Professional States of play boosts the lure for Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club trio
Athletes Kieran Wood, Alice Newcombe and Julia Paternain are heading to study and compete in the United States
Kieran Wood is set to embark on an American adventure.
The 22-year-old Cambridge & Coleridge AC member has been making steady progress on the athletics scene in this country, but he is about to swap it all for a scholarship in the USA.
A gold medal in 2014 in the 3,000m at the English Schools’ Championships set Wood on his way, and he has continued to develop.
He bounced back from surgery in October to win the silver medal in the 1,500m at the British Universities & Colleges Sports Championships this May and reached the final of the same event at the British Championships last Sunday.
Wood has spent the past three years with coach James Thie at Cardiff Metropolitan University, but before heading to Wales, he had toyed with the idea of going out to the States.
Now, he is going to do a masters in Missouri, with the route to America proving increasingly popular for a wide range of sports, with the scholarships, funding and opportunities difficult to resist.
“I had offers to go out to the States to do my undergraduate degree about three years ago, but I didn’t think I was ready physically or emotionally,” said Wood.
“The offer came back around so I didn’t want to say no to the opportunity.
“I think it’s just a very different system. From a sporting point of view, I would say they have the best sporting system in the world with the way they set up and progress; I wanted to be part of that
“What’s pulling me is the opportunity to race world-class races every other week.”
The spell overseas will allow Wood to test the water with regards to a future career in athletics.
With a regular set of fixtures across the country, he believes it will be a good opportunity to see whether there would be any longevity in the sport for him.
“It’s to try to push myself and test my running. The way they approach sport, as much as anything, is such a big deal,” he said.
“They throw a lot of money into it and have a lot of research, recovery, techniques, so it’s the opportunity to experience what it would be like if I ever had the opportunity to go pro.
“It’s to push my body because they’re going to look after me. Varsity university sport generates a lot of money so they want to get the best out of their athletes.
“I don’t know whether it’s possible, but if I can go out there and live like a pro for two years then I’m giving myself the best opportunity.
Nursing his way back from a difficult couple of years of injuries and surgery this summer has been the objective in a curtailed British season ahead of going to America in late July.
Wood said: “I’ve had a good year this year, it’s been really positive which is exciting, but I would still say I’m probably only on 75 to 80 per cent of the training I want to be doing.
“When I go out there, it’s about gradually building that up and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
Alice Newcombe finds a home in Tulsa
Alice Newcombe decided to make the move to the States to try to pursue a longer career in athletics.
The 19-year-old Cambridge & Coleridge AC is the trailblazer of the three, having just finished her first semester across the pond.
Newcombe is studying environmental science/geography as an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma on a full athletics scholarship.
“I wanted to see what I could do with my running, and I believed moving to America would be best as it also allowed me to gain a qualification whilst trying to pursue my running,” said Newcombe.
The opportunities available in the States are greater than in this country, allowing budding stars a chance to combine their education and their sport.
“Other than coming out with a full degree, I’m able to push myself within my sport in ways that I maybe wouldn’t have been able to do in the UK,” she said.
“It’s very tough to become pro within athletics, but the ideal outcome for me going to America would be to become pro.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to give the professional route a go and Tulsa is going to be able to give me the best opportunities to try to become professional.”
Adjusting to life in a new country has been relatively easy for Newcombe, although the long distance track and cross country runner has not seen too much competition this season; she has been redshirted which means she is not competing for Tulsa this season.
With four years of eligibility from the NCAA to compete for an American university, being redshirted provides freshers another year to compete.
“As I have already been out there for a semester I can say that the team is probably my favourite part,” said Newcombe.
“We all live together and spend most of our time together, it’s just very nice to be around people that have the same passion as you.”
She added: “I was redshirted in Tulsa this season so haven’t raced and am just getting ready to compete for cross country.”
Penn is the pick for Julia Paternain
Julia Paternain will be bidding to leave these shores on a high.
The 18-year-old Hills Road Sixth Form College student will be heading to Birmingham for the ESAA English Schools’ Championships next Friday eager to defend her 3,000m title before going to studying at Penn State University.
Paternain, who is of Uruguayan descent, goes to Pennsylvania on a five-year athletics scholarship in early August to combine academic aspirations with an already flourishing running life.
She will be doing general education studies first, before deciding the discipline in which to major.
“I had always wanted to go to America even before I started running,” said Paternain. “My dad went to Stony Brook in America, my cousin has just finished at the University of Pennsylvania so I always knew that I wanted to go to America regardless.
“When I realised it would be really good for my running as well, I put two and two together and thought it would be a really nice opportunity.”
Paternain started researching the possibilities available at universities in America and contacting coaches, with help of a company called Sporting Elite.
“I really liked the whole team environment at Penn State,” she said. “I took a visit also to New Mexico, and I did really like it and it was a hard decision to choose Penn State.
“I think the thing with Penn State was I could just see myself fitting in there really well and I wasn’t sure whether New Mexico would suit me personally. Penn’s really good academically and it’s got a good running team, and the coaches were lovely as well.”
Paternain is a 3,000m runner who also runs cross country, and 1,500m for speed work, but as it is not an Olympic or World Championship distance, she intends to step up to 5,000m in time.
With a good track season in 2017 a factor in earning the scholarship, she is hoping to continue that development with a possible eye on a future in the sport.
“I would like to take it as far as physically possible,” said Paternain. “I guess it all depends on how well I’m running in the next five years, that will make it or break it.
“I want to have fun with it, and see how far it can go. If not, I think that’s the opportunity thing to go to university to have a degree to fall back on if the running does not work out.”
First things first though, and that is the trip to the Alexandra Stadium this week.
“I will be trying to defend my title, hopefully, I can do it,” Paternain said of the English Schools’ Championship.
“It should be fun, I’m just looking forward to the experience as I really enjoyed it last year.”