Two years ago I stepped onto Carnegie Mellon’s campus for the first time. I walked into Skibo to meet with coach Gary Aldrich. As a transfer student in my junior year of college I was interested in what Carnegie Mellon and the track team had to offer and Aldrich made it clear that the team atmosphere, academics, and the opportunity to compete against some of the best runners in the country was a chance that not many schools can offer.
When I arrived on campus a few months later Aldrich stopped talking about what the team could offer and started talking about what I could be for this team. When I went in for our first one-on-one meeting he asked what my goals for the year were. I started to throw out some times that seemed attainable, but he stopped me. He did not want to talk about my performance goals, he wanted to discuss the parts of the sport that most coaches forget about. We sat there discussing my day-to-day practice goals and the role that I should take on within my event group. He even asked about my academic goals for my time at CMU. Looking back, that was the first time that a coach has been so interested in my success not just in meets, but in shaping me as a leader and teammate as well as encouraging all of my pursuits.
At a track meet, everyone knows where Gary Aldrich is. In his words he is the “biggest and loudest guy on the field.” His vocal encouragement to all the CMU athletes competing is contagious. Regardless of how tired I am on the final stretch of an 800, there are a dozen teammates shouting me on that somehow lessens the pain of the race. Last year at the UAA conference meet, the whole team gathered on the infield and made a new cheer for each lap of the 10,000. That is 25 laps, meaning 25 different cheers. While the guys trudged along there were 60 of us on the infield doing the wave, making human pyramids, mimicking bowling pins, and shouting the whole time. The level of support that this team provides is incredible, and it starts with the coaching staff.
CMU is a unique place full of passionate people. There are not many places where locker room talk revolves around building robots, changes in the stock market, or that last question in the problem set. I am a better person now than I was two years ago and so much of that has to do with the environment that has challenged me to push myself in class, on the track, and around campus. The support, passion, and encouragement that this program exudes makes every day a great day to be a Tartan. Looking back to the first time I met Coach Aldrich two years ago, he was absolutely right, there is something special about the track team at CMU.