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July 08, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 08, 2005

Recruit and pursuit Recruit and pursuit (July 08, 2005)

Many high school athletes must woo colleges in order to compete

By Scott Campbell

While collegiate recruitment often conjures up thoughts of top programs dangling four-year scholarships and wooing prep stars, those are far from the experiences of mainstream athletes. In reality, very few high school athletes land on a collegiate team by fending off suitors and having the pick of the litter.

Rather, it is more often that the athletes recruit the schools.

"For 99 percent of the athletes out there if you want you compete, you have to contact the coach," said Los Altos track and field coach Julia Widstrand.

Two of Widstrand's athletes, Daphne Owen and David Barth, knew they had to take matters into their own hands. After the recent Los Altos graduates and co-captains of the 2005 Eagles' track and field team decided they wanted to compete at the next level, they set out to land themselves a spot.

"I guess I just knew I had to take some initiative," said Owen, who will run for UC San Diego next year. "It would've been nice if someone would've come after me, but I'm a go-getter I guess, so I went out and put my name out there."

Owen began the process by surfing the Internet for information on track teams at the schools she was interested in. After narrowing down the field, she started contacting the coaches of a few different programs.

"I actually e-mailed the San Diego coach and I said, 'I love track and here are my marks and I'd absolutely love to run for you next year,'" said Owen.

UCSD responded to Owen with a letter requesting more specifics about her events and times, which led to a recruiting visit this past January. Owen saw her dream coming alive while watching the Tritons practice.

"It was cool to meet the coaches and see what the college track experience would be like, how different it would be from high school," said Owen, who stayed in a dorm room with a team member on her visit.

Owen accepted an invitation to join the 2006 team shortly thereafter, albeit without a scholarship. An NCAA Division II school, UCSD does not offer athletic scholarships, but in some ways that made the school even more attractive to Owen.

"The thing I really liked about San Diego is, because they don't give out athletic scholarships, everyone who's out there is there because they really want to be," said Owen. "People are determined."

Owen knows her training this summer is critical as time trials scheduled for late September will determine whether she cracks the roster of the traveling team. With workouts that include running hills, weight lifting and even yoga scheduled six days each week, Owen hopes to be able to compete in long-distance events, including the steeplechase, next season.

Meanwhile, Barth yearns to compete at the highest collegiate level, in a Division-I athletic program. After deciding to attend Boston University, he set his sights set on making the track and field team.

It has been an uphill struggle from the start.

Seeking merely an opportunity to try out as a walk-on athlete, Barth's early queries via e-mail were met with a disheartening response. Barth was told in no uncertain terms by then-BU men's head coach Pete Schuder that his "times would not hold up at a D-I school."

"It's not a fun process," said Barth. "[Schuder] shot me down right off the bat. He wasn't very open to people walking-on to the team."

Even after improving his times in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes during his senior season at Los Altos, Barth received the same response.

Thrilled to learn about a recent coaching change at BU, Barth is hopeful that he might now have a better chance to make the team as a walk-on.

"That changes everything for me," Barth said of Schuder's exit. "If I work and train hard, hopefully I'll make it, but there are no guarantees."

Barth's limbo status has provided extra motivation for his summer workouts. He has been training with Owen and numerous returning Los Altos runners, knowing that making the BU team depends on his ability to whittle off a few precious tenths of a second from his times.

"For me right now, it's not about a scholarship," said Barth. "It's about landing a spot on that team and being able to compete in meets.

"I just had such a great experience here at Los Altos that I don't want it to end. I want four more years of competing. Being on a team with guys of that level would be a dream come true."

And, like Owen, he has taken it upon himself to make that dream a reality.
@email:E-mail Scott Campbell at [email protected]

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