Sean Proehl Gaining Competitive Edge Through Cross Country

Oct. 6, 2011

For senior Sean Proehl, his love for cross country started in middle school as a soccer player. It didn’t take him long to realize that running was what he enjoyed doing more than anything else. After meeting with the cross country coach at his middle school, he decided he would take his athletic career in a new direction.

100611aad_607_5704535.jpeg“It originally started when I played soccer in middle school, and we would have to do runs at the beginning of practice,” said Proehl. “I enjoyed doing that, so I joined the cross country team. My coach in middle school really encouraged me, so I decided to go out in high school.

Once at the high school level, Proehl had a tough decision to make regarding the sport he grew up playing.

“I played soccer my freshman year of high school, and I decided it wasn’t for me,” Proehl said. “I needed to focus on running, so I did cross country in the fall, and track in the spring. This gave me the season in between off to train for track and get ready.”

However, Proehl’s career in running took a slight detour around his senior year, when he grew a few inches and gained some weight. His increased size made it more difficult to run longer distances, but that did not discourage him from doing what he loved. Proehl began working with his high school coach, Terry Dockery of Rancho Bernardo High School, to transition from distance to mid-distance.

“As I grew in my senior year, I put on a bunch of weight,” Proehl said. “I still did cross country, but I mainly focused on the mile and the 800. I shifted to the shorter stuff, because I was growing bigger, and it is easier to run shorter stuff when you are bigger. [Coach Dockery] helped me transition from distance to mid-distance, and helped me get into college. He sent recommendation letters to the coaches and pushed me to go run in college.”

Proehl, who is from San Diego but was born in Overland Park, was familiar with The University of Kansas because of his older sister, Meghan Proehl, was a diver at KU. With that in mind, Proehl began contacting the track and field/cross country coaches at KU, to let them know of his interest in joining the program.

100611aad_607_5704536.jpeg“Kansas seemed like a great school,” Proehl said. “I contacted the coach here and we e-mailed throughout my senior year. I would tell him my times and how I was doing, and finally in the spring of my senior year he said to come out, we want you on the team.”

With his bigger frame, Proehl decided to focus on track at KU. However, to keep his training schedule fresh and his endurance up in the offseason, Proehl turned back to his first love, cross country. Proehl credits cross country for helping him keep that competitive edge during his main sport’s offseason.

“It helps keep your mind focused on racing, and builds up endurance for my mid-distance, and distance races in track,” Proehl said. “As we work our way into track, I work on my speed, because I already have my endurance work done [during cross country]. Since I ran cross country in high school, it influenced me to start with the cross country group and train with them, rather than just go straight into mid-distance training.”

Proehl talks very highly of the coaches at KU, especially assistant coach Michael Whittlesey who specializes in distance, and has worked closely with Proehl during the past few seasons.

100611aad_607_5610681.jpeg“Coach Whit has really been pushing me lately to reach my full potential,” Proehl said. “I have been doing much better in workouts this year than I have ever done before, so I am looking forward to track coming up.”

His work in the offseason has Proehl confident that he will be able to cut significant time from his events this upcoming track season.

“This year I want to try and run a 1:52 800 meters, and try to make it to conference in indoor in the 1,000, and run a 1:25,” said Proehl. “Then in outdoor I am going to be running the 1,500 and hopefully break the 3:50 range for that.”

Before he can concentrate too much on track, Proehl will be running this weekend in what could be his final cross country race wearing the crimson and blue. That meet will be run here in Lawrence at Haskell Invitational, at the Indian’s campus course, Gentle Rolling Hills. Despite the potential ending of his cross country career, Proehl is excited about the race and the possibility of extending his career one more week.

“The race this weekend should be fun,” Proehl said. “My mom is coming into town, so that will be fun. It could potentially be my last cross country race ever since I am graduating this year, but I am hoping to break 26 minutes in the 8K. If I run well enough I might be able to go on next weekend to our next meet, but it depends on how well I do. I want to give my best and run as hard as I can.”

Proehl and his Jayhawk teammates will run Saturday with the women’s 5K race set to begin at 9:15 a.m., and the men’s race to follow at 9:45 a.m.