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Interval Session #127 - Andrew Springer

By Dave Devine - June 11, 2009

At the beginning of this school year, lifelong soccer player Andrew Springer had a decision to make as he entered his senior year at Westerly High School in Rhode Island.  Play soccer his senior year with the friends he'd been teammates with since he was six years old-- and be a very good runner during the track season-- or run cross country for the first time as a high schooler and try to become one of the best distance runners in the nation. Springer chose cross country, and the results speak for themselves. The fall was a success by almost anyone's standards, as he followed up a course record 15:15 victory at the Rhode Island All-State Meet with a fourth-place finish at Foot Locker Northeast and a 28th-place finish at the Finals in San Diego.  But it has been on the track-- indoors and out--where the fruits of Springer's autumn sacrifice have fully been revealed.

During an undercover campaign which seemed to bring weekly highlights from the New England star, Springer ended the season ranked US#1 in the 1500, 1600, Mile and 3000, while capping the winter with a stirring 4:08.47 mile victory at the Nike Indoor Nationals.  Outdoors, he's been just as good.  He's currently US#1 in the 3k at 8:23.3, and has his Westerly RI DMR squad atop the national list as well, with a 10:01.13 clocking from the Loucks Games in which Springer ran down Western Albemarle anchor Tyler Stutzman from behind with a jaw-dropping 4:03.5 carry.  Last weekend, the senior star gave his Rhode Island swansong, almost single-handedly leading the Westerly boys to their first RI State title with a 1:55 split on his team's winning 4x800 relay (state record 7:55.05), and victories in the 1500 (record 3:54.02), 800 (1:56.26), and 3000 (record 8:29.35).  This Saturday, he faces a stellar field in the Mile at the Midwest Distance Gala, lining up against current US#1 at 1600 Jeff Thode with a shot to run low 4-minutes...or faster.

DyeStat senior editor Dave Devine grabs a few minutes with the Rhode Island star between the state meet and the Gala.

1) You're just coming off a super quadruple at the Rhode Island State Meet, where you helped lead your team to the state title.  Can you talk a bit about that effort, how much it took out of you, and how you felt when it was clear the team had done enough to win the title?

This was the first time in history that the Westerly boys team won State, so I was really glad to be a part of that.  We all did our part, but we weren't sure until the end that we'd won.  Another school has been a powerhouse and won 13 of the last 14 years, so we all knew we had to come with championship performances.  Our coach has motivated all of us to work hard all year and it finally paid off.  I wasn't really sore after and had time to recover between events.  We took Sunday off and then it was back to work on Monday.

2) You're clearly a team-oriented guy, and I know you've carried the baton on a number of occasions when it might have been more beneficial, from a personal perspective, to leave yourself fresh for the individual races.  Can you discuss that balance between personal goals, which extend all the way up to the national level, and your commitment to the Westerly team as a points contributor and relay man?  Have there been times where one had to supersede the other, or where you found the two commitments to be at odds?

My coach trains us to be able to run multiple events, so the relay is a warm up for my individual event.  My personal goal is to go out and do my best in whatever race I'm in.  I can do that just as well in a relay as I can running individually.  Actually, some of my breakout performances individually have been after a really good relay leg when I was putting it all out there to get the team a good place.  I wasn't thinking about the time, but once I got a good time, it gave me the confidence to go do the same thing in my own race.

3) I know you decided to run cross country this year instead of playing soccer, and that it was a difficult decision for you.  With the perspective of most of your senior year now to look back on that decision, has it been worth it?  Do you still miss soccer, and have you found ways to stay connected to the sport even as you had to leave the daily playing behind?

It was a tough decision, and one I didn't make until the first day of practice when I had to show up for one of the practices.  I've been playing with the same group of guys since I was about 6.  It was hard to leave them and not be there to help them win games.  We were state champions in middle school and we'd hoped to repeat that again this year.  But I realized I wouldn't be able to accomplish my own goals unless I trained the whole year.  I stayed competitive even though I only trained for 6 months, but I knew I couldn't do that this year.  There were too many guys working hard and I had to do the work too.

The thing that made all the difference is that the guys on the team stuck with me.  I went to as many of their soccer games as I could, and they've traveled to see me run.  It's been good because now the track and soccer guys are all good friends.

4) Between cross country, indoor and outdoor track, you've had a lot of big races and some great opportunities to travel as a result of this sport.  What has been your favorite meet or race, and why?  If you could identify one moment from your senior year (so far) that's burned into your memory, what would it be?

Probably winning the Nike Indoor mile.  A bunch of guys had come to watch me run at Reebok and that race didn't end the way I wanted it to.  But I got a do-over, and they all came back to watch again for Nike.  Both races were exciting, but that one had a better ending.

5) I understand you are a late add to the mile field for the Midwest Distance Gala.  Can you describe the decision-making that went into that, and maybe what you're hoping to accomplish out there, or how you're approaching the race?

Our team goal this year is to do well in the DMR at Nationals.  The other guys are all running well, so it looks like we'll be able to make a good run of it.  We were kind of waiting to see how that would turn out, and now that we know we'll be running that, I won't be able to run the mile there.  So after talking about it with my coach we decided the Midwest Gala would give me one more shot to run a fast mile.  I've only run the open mile once this season and my goal this year was a 4:05 or better.

6) Here's a question I asked Jeremy Rae from Canada in a previous Interval Session: You've had the chance to race a lot of the best young US distance guys in the last year.  If you had to identify one high schooler currently running in the US you'd hate to have sitting on your shoulder with 250 meters to go in a big 1500 or Mile final, who would it be?  And who, among the guys you have raced, would you particularly enjoy having another chance to toe the line against, or do you especially enjoy racing?

The best races I've ever been in are the ones with someone on my shoulder with 250 meters to go, so that's not something I would ever hate, no matter who wins.  That's when you figure out who wants it more.

7) You're committed to attend and run for Georgetown University next year, which is a great next step for a student athlete.  Can you talk about that decision, and how the recruiting process went?  What things about Georgetown made you finally settle on becoming a Hoya next fall?

I had a lot of great choices and had some good people helping me through the process.  When I went to Georgetown I was impressed with how close the team is and how they seemed to be having a good time even though they are working hard.  Coach Henner kept in contact with me throughout the process and some of the team did also.  It was a good fit for me and I like the idea of being in Washington and out of the winter weather we have in Rhode Island.  We train outdoors all year round here, and I was hoping to get out of that.

8) With graduation this week, it's always a time for looking back and probably some nostalgia.  What things will you miss about Westerly specifically, and about running high school track in Rhode Island in general?

I'm going to miss everything about Westerly, but especially the people here that have influenced my life. It's not going to be easy moving on and leaving all the great friends I have here, but i'm hoping I can have the same experiences at Georgetown that will really make me feel like part of the school.  As for running in Rhode Island, knowing everyone in the small state environment has been a blast and having people from my town that follow what I'm doing is great motivation, so that will be missed. All together, I will mostly miss the people and close friends that I have had in Westerly for the last 18 years.

Photos: John Nepolitan

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