There we were, jammed into the small office area at the back of the store with the live video feed up on the computer screen. It was a late-November Saturday afternoon at the New England Running Company shop in Beverly, MA, and free time was scarce. We hoped that it would stay quiet just long enough to watch Abbey D’Agostino nail down a national cross country title.
Iona’s Kate Avery aggressively got out to a big lead and knowing full well that front-running isn’t the smart play in a championship race, it still made us anxious watching it. Come on, make a move already Abbey! I was still relatively new on the staff there, having only started back in the spring. Prior to joining the crew I had been involved with Level Renner for almost two years, and one thing we love to see is a runner with local ties breaking through on the big stage. It wasn’t exactly breaking through for Abbey since she already had titles on the track, but this was to be her big moment in cross country.
What made this even more interesting was that Abbey grew up on the north shore and shopped at the store, going back to her high school days. So now members of the staff were watching a customer, someone they knew from when she was starting out just like any other runner, capture a national title. How often do you see a former high school runner from your community win a national championship?
With that in mind, we went about setting up the interview. And what better place to do the interview than at the store itself, right? I had to work there anyway and Level Renner currently has no office, so getting to work a bit early and turing the floor into a studio (before the doors opened to customers) seemed like the best bet.
Abbey did this flying solo, too. The next closest competitor was almost 90 seconds behind her. Just think what could’ve been; the PC trio of Emily Sisson, Sarah Collins and Laura Nagel had all run the 5k the weekend before and all ran between 15:40 and 15:42. It’s all irrelevant in the big picture since it was an early season meet and they were all undoubtedly running just fast enough to get the standard. However, Abbey running with the PC women is far more exciting than Abbey running solo.
National qualifier for the 5k in hand, it’s now time to focus on the 3k. “What I’ve done in indoor season in the past, too, is just done a little speed work so I’ll be in some fast miles, I hope, and then you know a couple of those before 3k, like mid-February.”
Naturally, the focus shifted to what was a bit further down the road: going pro. Obviously it’s not like asking a football free agent where they want to go. The NCAA is pretty clear (and strict) about what athletes can and can’t do (mostly can’t) regarding their future. But only a small amount of runners make the leap from the college ranks to the pros so there’s a lot of interest in the process surrounding the transition.
One thing that Abbey can do is get advice from people who’ve been through it, and luckily one of her good friends just recently made that move. Alexi Pappas went from Dartmouth to the Oregon Track Club and has been a valuable source of info. Abbey said that Alexi told her to “be at Dartmouth while you’re at Dartmouth, you don’t need to worry about it (going pro) yet. But she’s made it known that she’s available for advice because she’s been through the whole process before.”
There’s so much that goes behind any decision anyway that it takes its fair share of homework. “I sort of have to educate myself a little bit before I even have the vocabulary to ask the questions, so that’s the focus for the rest of this time off from school,” said Abbey regarding how she was to be spending the rest of her winter break.
“I’m trying to stay as open minded as possible as to what I’m looking for and where I want to be next year,” continued Abbey. “Obviously the location is a huge variable in where I decide I want to train and what I decide I want to do.” Speaking of location, that seems to be exactly what people are talking about lately.
In the days since we sat down, there was obviously one big announcement that we’d be remiss to overlook here: Abbey’s coach Mark Coogan has left Dartmouth to join New Balance. Mark accepted a position as part of the marketing team and will head up an elite training group based out of Boston. It’s very easy to speculate as to what will happen in a few months when Abbey graduates, but that’s just it: it’s all speculation.
If there’s one person who can ignore all of the noise surrounding that, it’s Abbey. She seems like she’s truly enjoying her time at Dartmouth and isn’t too worried about what will happen after her time is up in Hanover.
What she might have to worry about in the meantime is what to do about all of the marriage proposals. Okay, so far none of them have gone to her directly, but we received a few of them when we put out a call for interview questions from our readers. To see her response, well, you’re just going to have to watch the video.
We just hope we can get a Burning Love-style competition up off the ground. It would be epic.
A pic of from our session is featured in the latest issue of Level Renner, which is free to all and available now!