One of my favorite things about Furman Elite is that being part of the Furman Family feels like we’re back in college– without the papers, midterms, and classes, thankfully! In all seriousness, being part of this group gives post-collegiate athletes the rare opportunity to feel engaged with a team at the NCAA level once they’ve completed their five years of college competition. Here at Furman, the Elites fall under the umbrella of the Paladin program and there might not be anything else like it in the country.
At the most basic level, we’re part of the Furman Family because we’re coached by the Paladin head coach, Robert Gary. It’s exciting for incoming recruits to realize the training they’re given probably isn’t too far off the training we’re doing! We use the same track, pool, gym, Alter-G, and EllptiGO and have the opportunity to train with the same strength coaches and work with the same physical therapists as the collegiate team. We don’t have some secret stash of resources that they don’t get access to— so at the end of the day, they realize our goals and accomplishments are just as attainable for them!
Furman Elite is actively a part of the Furman family too– steeplers Cory Leslie and Craig Forys are NCAA-registered coaches, participating in the Paladin’s daily practice, traveling to meets, sitting down in individual meetings, and truly investing themselves in the team’s daily training and longterm goals. It’s both an opportunity to learn the coaching biz for them and a way to inspire their own Olympic Dreams; watching the work the college athletes do inspires Craig and Cory to do the work themselves.
That last part applies to the rest of us as well. The six other members of Furman Elite might not be official coaches, but we see the Paladins as we start our own practice and they finish theirs; we work the home meets the team hosts– so we’re up before 6am setting up tents and we’re there all day cheering the team on in their races. We even share rabbitting duties, jumping in races across the country to pace our Paladin counterparts through to a new PB or qualifying mark. There’s something so unique in that– how often do collegiate runners get an elite athlete to pace them?
For me, I just love the feeling of being engaged with collegiate athletes again. For my first few years out of college, I didn’t pay attention to the NCAA at all. I had no idea which teams were vying for the trophy at the cross-country championships, I didn’t remember what it was like to travel with a big team to the track regional meet, and I didn’t appreciate the feeling of qualifying for NCAAs. Those are important feelings that have fueled both my collegiate and elite careers and, let’s face it, NCAA racing is exciting! To follow along and feel invested in the success of college athletes inspires me and makes me a better athlete.
Go Furman Elite! Go Paladins!