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"Know what environment will help you perform and develop as a person and athlete"

Heidi Murray of Wingate University recently spoke to us about her adventure in the US to date and passing on advice to those who are interested in hearing more about track & field opportunities in the US.

Can you tell us a little bit about your time as a cross country runner in England and Ireland

I was born in Ireland, but moved to live in England before primary school. I ran cross county for my county at the Inter-counties and English schools from the age of 11. I was also age group county champion on the track and at cross county. I've represented both Ireland and England across multiple racing types including mountain running where I was part of the team that competed at the World and European mountain running championships.

How did your move to the US happen?

Growing up I’d watched other athletes from my county or club go to America on sports scholarships, so I was always aware it was an option and something I wanted to pursue. The summer prior to going to university I reached out to multiple coaches whose programmes interested me. This opened up several conversations with university coaches and after I had narrowed down my options, I spoke with some of the girls on the teams to find more from a student athletes’ perspective. I think this is one of the most important aspects about picking your chosen university. You really need to get a sense of what it's like from the athlete's point of view, they are the ones living it every single day.

What helped you stand out to the coaches when they were recruiting you?

There weren’t necessarily specific times that I had to reach for the university I ended up choosing, but my results from both track and cross country were enough to show potential for the coaches. I think if you’re competing at county or national level on a regular basis this is looked at favorably by coaches. They also look at your track times and park run times. I had also competed internationally for mountain running which helped. Obviously the more exposure that you have in your chosen sport the better the opportunities you will have when it comes to university offers.

atlantic scholarships
Heidi Murray
Overall, how have you found the level of competition in the US?

Overall the competition is consistently performing at a very high standard. There is such a large depth in the high-level athletes which due to the size of the country, we just don’t have access to in Ireland.

I think another factor is the weather, in Ireland the weather is not as consistent as in the US and we tend to get pretty harsh winters back home. This is another factor when it comes to training that can help. We spend some time in warm weather states when training so your overall level of fitness increases.

What have you found the most challenging about your time in the US so far?

I think the thing that’s most challenging is adjusting to the new schedule of attending classes, practice, homework whilst maintaining a social life. You’re forced to be independent and form new relationships. Being an athlete is a huge advantage as you automatically have a new family within your teammates and the upperclassmen are always there to help assist you in the transition when you first arrive.

What have you found the most rewarding about your time in the US so far?

The people I have met are by far the best part of my experience. I’ve found some of my best friends on the team and we spend all our time together whether that’s training, living or eating together. I chose a smaller school which provided a more family like environment, and everyone is always looking out for each other.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone who is looking at moving to the US to become a student-athlete?

Do your research and don’t rush into any decisions. Take the time to talk to other athletes on the program and get to know the coach and his philosophies. I think it’s always helpful to look at universities that have a record of recruiting international athletes as that suggests that they have an infrastructure in place for internationals making your transition easier. Stay true to yourself, every programme is going to give you a good selling pitch but know what environment will help you perform and develop as a person and athlete.



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