College athletics is one of the biggest industries in America. It is a billion dollar industry that attracts millions of viewers. It is also a great opportunity for students to obtain a higher education while competing in the sports they love.
A perfect example of that is Rowan cross country runner, Alyssa Sanders.
A junior captain, Sanders developed a passion for running early on in her life.
“I started running in middle school,” Sanders said. “My middle school had a track program so I started then.”
She further explained how she switched from soccer in high school to cross country.
“I really like running,” Sanders said. “I loved playing midfield in soccer because you could just run up and down the field, I didn’t really love the physical part of soccer but I really liked the running, so I decided to do that.”
Sanders, a Pitman, New Jersey native, was able to stay local and run cross country at Rowan university.
As a freshman, she showed great promise, winning New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rookie of the week twice. She constantly finished respectably throughout the season, usually placing in the 4th-5th range.
As a sophomore, she had her first top time, placing first with a time of 24:02 at the Paul Short Run.
With two pretty solid campaigns under her belt and now a junior captain, Sanders has been electric to start the year. She’s placed 1st at both the Short Course Season Opener at Stockton, and the Philadelphia Metro Championships. She’s on fire to start and is looking for her and her team to finish the season strong.
“I’m hoping for as a team we win NJACs, that’s the goal every year,” Sanders said. “I’m hoping we qualify for nationals, or at least individuals qualify. I’m hoping to run low 22’s for the 6k in cross country and hopefully qualify for nationals. Hopefully all that success in cross country carries on to track.”
When viewing college athletics, a lot of times we forget who these athletes really are… people. We forget that these are regular students on campus, attending classes and pursuing goals and careers. Just like for any kid in their first year of college, that transitional period is a really tough time, especially for an athlete. Sanders describes herself as one of the luckier ones when it comes to that transition.
“It was pretty easy since I live in the next town over,” Sander said. “A lot of my friends went to Rowan too.”
What isn’t easy though, is balancing school, work and athletics. There’s a ton of time that needs to be invested into athletics, along with the work you have to put in the classroom.
“It’s a lot of time and dedication, you really have to have good time management skills to be a student athlete on any level,” Sanders said. “Athletics can sometimes take up your whole weekend, whether it’s a game or a meet; it could be all athletics, and then during the week there’s practice every single day. It’s a lot of time so you really have to be good at managing your time and getting everything done on time.”
Sanders herself is pursuing a degree in translational biomedical sciences and eventually wants to go to medical school. While it’s tough to balance her time between athletics and school, Sanders sees the challenge as an advantage to her in the future.
“It gets hard sometimes, but the good thing is track has also really helped me manage my time better,” Sanders said. “It’s like in the future when you have a job, you know how to manage your time better; I think athletics gives you a lot of life skills … leadership skills, time management skills, just a lot of skills overall.”
And as she continues to use these skills to better herself in all facets of life, we’ll be watching to see how she continues her impressive start to this cross country season.
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