Doubling down: two-sport athletes discuss their time as Leopards

Two+football+players+and+one+soccer+player+have+seen+success+on+Track+and+Field.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Athletic+Communications%29

Two football players and one soccer player have seen success on Track and Field. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Matthew Post

Less than three percent of all high school athletes will go on to play a Division-I sport, according to the NCAA’s official website. Moreover, navigating the schedule of athletic practice and academics is often challenging when playing just one sport.

On the Lafayette track and field team, however, multiple athletes are defying the odds and participating in not one, but two Division-I sports.

At least three athletes are pulling double duty for the Leopards’ track and field team. Sophomore Harrison Greenhill, a defensive lineman for the football team, has been a solid addition for the track and field team, competing in the weight throw, shot put and discus. Greenhill won the shot put and came in fifth in discus during last weekend’s 7-Way Open in Easton.

Freshman offensive lineman Casey McCollum joined Greenhill as one of the throwers for the men’s team before tearing his pectoral over spring break. Senior Annika Sheehan spent four years as a member of the Lafayette women’s soccer team before joining the track and field team prior to this years’ winter break.

“I got involved with track and field [because] the coach and some of the girls on the team reached out to me,” said Sheehan. “I loved running in high school and it was definitely something I missed doing, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for me.”

With just over a month left at Lafayette, Sheehan said she thought it would be “something fun to do” for her last semester, especially with a less busy schedule than the fall.

“I had a lot more time in the spring since soccer season was over for me and I was beginning to miss the feeling of competing,” she said. “I was also curious to see how I would do running track again.”

In her first and only season as a member of the track team, Sheehan has been able to contribute the team’s performance recently, coming in fourth in the 1500-meter run at the 7-Way Open. Despite not having run since her senior year of high school, Sheehan’s experience on the soccer team allowed her to be able to return to running easily.

“The preparation I did for soccer helped me be ready to compete for track,” said Sheehan. “Because of the work and effort I did to stay fit for soccer, I did not have much trouble transitioning onto the track team.”

While Sheehan chose to wait until her soccer career had concluded before joining the track team, Greenhill and McCollum are engaging in both of their sports at the same time. McCollum said that the process of joining both teams was relatively easy once he knew he was going to attend Lafayette.

“I was already committed to play football here, I had been accepted and had already signed,” said McCollum. “I emailed our head coach, Coach [Michele] Curcio, ‘Hey these are my numbers, here’s some film, I’ve already been accepted to the school, do you think there would be a spot on the team for me? But I am a member of the football team, so there may be some conflicts.’ She emailed me back, and said that would work.”

With the football season having concluded in mid-November, Greenhill and McCollum had just a few weeks of rest before returning to a full practice schedule. After a long football season, some amount of fatigue might be expected. Despite that, McCollum said that he and Greenhill have managed to fight off any sort of burnout, especially with regard to their academics.

“For football and track, we can kind of gut it out, like if you have a bad practice you can still put in a lot of effort, and come back the next day and say ‘I’m gonna try and be a little better today.’ But you can’t do that with your schoolwork,” said McCollum. “So I think that’s been the hardest part for me; [that] you don’t get an off day with your academics.”

Every spring, the NCAA allows Division-I football teams to have a maximum of 15 practices in addition to offseason lifts and workouts. Currently in the middle of both the spring football season and the outdoor track and field season, Greenhill and McCollum have a full schedule getting to multiple practices and classes every day.

“[I] wake up at 4:50 a.m., get up, eat something, go to the locker room to get dressed, practice will end by like 7:30, take a quick shower and then start classes that’ll run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with an hour break for lunch,” said McCollum. “After that, I have football lift with film, which usually runs till six. Then my head coach for track, who is also my event coach, will work me in so that I can get some throwing practice in after six.”

Despite the effort required to participate in a single Division-I sport, let alone two, these athletes recognize and appreciate the opportunity to compete and represent Lafayette, according to Sheehan.

“I have learned so much from being on a sports team and feel that it has made for an amazing college experience,” said Sheehan. “Both programs take great care of their athletes and make sure they are doing okay at all times.

“There is always someone to turn to when you have trouble and it is nice to know that I have such a great support system,” she added. “I have made so many great relationships and feel that my experience has played a large role in who I am today.”

Furthermore, McCollum offered a perspective on why he chose to undertake the daunting task of playing two Division-I sports as well as taking challenging classes.

“You go to a big football school as a player, you’re there to play football. [Lafayette’s] a big academic school, football’s second. Our coaches tell us that. Everybody tells us that. We want to have a bright a future, outside of our sports,” said McCollum. “Here, it’s up to you, they trust us to take care of our business.”

“You can define how hard you want your experience to be, you can define how much you want to get out of your experience,” he added.