DURHAM, N.C. -- With three individuals and a 4x400 meter relay heading to Eugene, Ore., for the 2014 Outdoor Track & Field Championship, GoDuke.com caught up with Duke’s competitors for a Q&A leading up to the national competition.
Today’s Q&A features senior Brian Atkinson. Atkinson qualified for his first NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship after placing 10th overall in the men’s 10,000 with a time of 29:57.49 at the NCAA East Preliminary Round meet in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, May 29.
Hometown: Melbourne Beach, Fla.
High School: Melbourne
Norm Ogilvie (Duke's Director of Track & Field) on Atkinson Qualifying for Nationals: Brian can cement his legacy at Duke forever with an All-America performance at nationals. That’s our goal and I’m confident he’s going to find a way to do it. It’s certainly not a low bar, but I really feel he can do it. He’s worked really hard. Probably the key for Brian has been durability. I think we’ve had quite a few guys at Duke who would say, ‘I’m willing to run a 100 miles a week to get better,’ but not everyone can do it. They break down. But Brian, through a lot of self-preservation, doing the right things to stay healthy like taking ice baths, stretching, getting rest, doesn’t allow anything into his body. He has his priorities very much in the right place, getting to med school, one, and secondly, asking himself what he can do to be the best runner he can be. It’s been a pleasure to work with him and it’s been great to see him improve. With the skill set he has picked up through his distance running and through surviving the grind of pre-med education, he’ll be able to take on anything in the future. He’s very well prepared to deal with adversity and he knows the taste of success.
GoDuke.com: What were the emotions and feelings you experienced after crossing the line and realizing you had qualified for the national meet?
Brian Atkinson: Going into the last hundred, I was a little out of it, because it was the end of the 10k, but we were lapping some people, I was getting passed by some people, and I was passing people, so I lost track of where I was. I didn’t really know where I was even before that. I was just trying to hold form and run as hard as I could. After I finished I just thought, ‘please let me be in there,’ and then I looked over and everyone was standing by the finish line and they were all giving the thumbs up and cheering. It was just a huge sigh of relief and then I sat down and soaked it in a little bit. Then I went over to my parents and sister who had my fiancé on FaceTime who couldn’t come because of work. Then Norm [Ogilvie] came over and gave me a big bear hug. I probably slept about three hours that night.
GoDuke.com: What are your expectations competing at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.?
BA: Anyone who’s ever been there as a runner says there’s a feeling there that’s so cool and that the fans are awesome. That’s what I’m expecting. I’ve seen it in all of the Prefontaine movies I watched a hundred times in high school. It’ll be cool to see it in person and see what the crowd is like, because I don’t think I’ve ever run in front of a huge crowd besides at nationals in cross country.
GoDuke.com: What does competing at the national championship meet your senior year mean to you?
BA: It’s awesome. It’s been a long buildup. I’ve been blessed to not really have any injuries. A lot of that is Norm’s doing and us communicating well. I think also, just my durability is pretty good. I’ve always thought it would be cool to snag an All-American spot at some point, and now I have the opportunity. I always imagined it would be cross country, but I’ll take track. I haven’t had any huge jumps, but I’ve steadily improved, getting a personal record at pretty much every distance every year, even if it was just a couple seconds. This year, I think Coach Norm and I have really figured out how to best train for the 10k, for me. We tinkered with some things, did some longer tempos, and it’s paying off big. I feel like this training I’ve done this year has been pretty ideal, so it’s been cool to have it line up right.
GoDuke.com: What was the greatest memory you’ve had here at Duke, competing on the track team?
BA: Qualifying was pretty awesome. I can’t pinpoint one, but a thing I’ll miss the most is the dinners the night before the meet with all of the guys, when we’re all a little nervous but joking around a lot and just hanging out with the guys on the team. Mike [Moverman] and I were talking about that this past weekend, saying, ‘This is the last time we’re going to do anything like this.’ I think I’ll appreciate it more when it’s gone.
GoDuke.com: What are your pre-race rituals leading up to a race?
BA: I’m very regimented. I’m scientific in my approach. I usually have the same breakfast, which is oatmeal, fruit and some milk. Then I’ll have the same lunch, which is peanut butter and jelly and a banana, and the same prerace, which is more oatmeal. I’ve got my routines, eating the same amount of hours out, within a half hour. I find it calming, mentally.
GoDuke.com: What’s the plan following your time at Duke?
BA: I’m going to medical school at the University of South Florida in Tampa. In the immediate future, on July 5th, my fiancé and I are getting married here in Durham, so we’re going to get married, go on our honeymoon to Cancun, come back here, pack up, and then roll down to Tampa. Running-wise, I think I do want to run a marathon pretty soon, try to capitalize on current fitness. I think I could have another training cycle or two and run pretty fast.