How Does a High School Runner Decide Which College to go to? -Some advice

Over thirty plus years as a high school cross country, and track and field coach, I was privileged that many athletes and parents sought advice about college recruitment. Deciding which college to attend is not easy. The college recruitment for a runner is unique. A recent PAC-12 cross country champion, and former California State Champion, Haley Herberg is one of those runners. Another, Carly Corsinita is currently at Oregon, and a third, Alyssa Bautista is at UCLA. So how does a high school runner decide which college to go to?

I developed guidelines for athletes, and parents to deal with college coaches during the recruiting process. I offer suggestions for the decision-making process.


Go to a school where you want to be, even if you can’t run there. Many years ago, the top runner in Southern California, from a beach community, went to an elite program in the South. When she suffered an injury and had conflicts with the coach over training issues, she looked around and asked herself, “What am I doing here?” Make sure that the school, courses of study, culture and region are experiences you value, aside from running.


How does a high school runner decide which college to go to? Remember that college athletics is a business. There may be nice, nurturing coaches, and friendly teammates, but there is a bottom line. Athletes compete for roster spots in order to maintain or develop scholarships. Coaches can literally be fired if not successful. This will not likely be a warm, fuzzy, high school coach who acts as pseudo-dad or mom.


Ask questions! How many miles do they run? What is the coach’s workout philosophy? Does everyone get to race? How are decisions reached about who races? Is there an “athlete only” dorm? Do athletes get priority in registration for classes? This information is important to factor.


What is your role going to be, and what do you want it to be? If you are recruited, you are probably the number one runner on your team. Sometimes, high school runners are tired of being the #1 runner, who is expected to lead all the time. Often, he or she wants to be behind the scenes for a while and work his/her way up. Make sure you know what the coach’s mindset and intentions are regarding your role on the team. Are you slated to be the savior of the program? Are you going to be an important cog in the wheels of the program but not the leader just yet?

In conclusion, college recruitment is an exciting privilege. Take an active role in the process so that the next chapter of your running career fits with your goals and makes you happy. I hope this article has helped you decide which college to go to.

Here is a link to article on college coach’s view of recruitment and how a high school runner decides which college to go to.

A Guide to the College Recruitment Process | Runner’s World (

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