Seven-time NCAA track champion Abbey D’Agostino signed a professional contract with New Balance on June 18. She will continue her professional career with coach Mark Coogan, who oversaw her success at Dartmouth.
D'Agostino's contract supports her through the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where she will look to make her first Olympic team. She spoke with ESPN.com recently to discuss her transition from NCAA star to the professional ranks.
Christopher Chavez: How easy of a decision was it for you to feel comfortable with New Balance
D’Agostino: It was pretty seamless. I knew I was looking for a company that wasn’t just there to give me free gear. It was more of a holistic commitment to the company’s values. That jumped out to me instantly with New Balance. They support the individual and not just the runner. It’s a close-knit community and they really embrace the spirit of running. I’m so thrilled to have found what I was looking for.
Chavez: The original plan was to run the 5K at the Monaco Diamond League. Why have you decided to take the summer off?
D’Agostino: In the past month, I haven’t really been in one place for an extended period of time. I think that’s something I’m going to have to adjust to, but there was definitely a bunch of emotional input in those few weeks. Once that starts to affect you mentally, it starts to become physical. I was started to feel that.
I’m privileged to have a coach and support from New Balance that will support the decisions that are best for me. This is a year where I can afford to take a nice long break and that’s what I decided.
Chavez: What’s the plan for the fall?
D’Agostino: If I do any road race this fall, it would be to get my feet wet as a professional. My focus is going to be the U.S. Cross-Country championships in February.
Chavez: What’s the best thing about your chemistry with coach Mark Coogan?
D’Agostino: It’s more than just a coach-athlete relationship and I think it’s also become a friendship. There’s respect there as coach vs. athlete as well, but I’ve come to trust Mark because of his experience racing at this level. He’s also spent a lot of time fine-tuning the mental aspects for him as a runner. That’s what he’s translated to his athletes. That was a very critical element to my success at Dartmouth. I’m really looking forward to what our relationship has in store just building off what we’ve already established.
Chavez: When you first started off with running was it mainly for fun. You weren’t a running junkie that constantly looked up the rest of the competition before meets. When did you flip the switch into really thinking this could be a full-time profession?
D’Agostino: Towards the end of my junior year I started to become more comfortable racing at this caliber. Before it was like ‘Get in there with them and hang on’. I did a lot more leading and racing more consistently against tougher competition. It just felt more comfortable and I started to trust myself however the race played out.
To me, running goes best when I’m very well balanced with other areas of my life and I need to translate that to my professional career. I’m excited to put more energy into running now and also apply myself to things that I probably wouldn’t be able to do if I had a nine to five job. At Dartmouth, I was a student and an athlete and worked to keep those priorities balanced.
Chavez: Outside of running, what are some of your big hobbies and passions?
D’Agostino: I’m a psychology major and there’s much that I can do in terms of internships. I’m more interested in counseling. I really enjoy working with kids. I’ve spent a couple summers as a camp counselor. I did Girls on the Run at Dartmouth, so I’d love to do some volunteer coaching. I was involved with a couple Christian organizations at Dartmouth, so I’m looking forward to finding a new church in Boston and making new friends there.
Chavez: What is a little known fact about Abbey D’Agostino that the track world doesn’t know?
D’Agostino: Playing the violin in middle school was a traumatic experience for me. I always say that when people ask me if I’m musical at all. That turned me off from playing any instrument. I would cry every lesson, because I was so sensitive. I hated practicing. None of that would follow me to high school.
Chavez: You just joined Twitter (@abbey_dags). Why did it take so long?
D’Agostino: Oh my gosh! I had people nagging me to get that for years. It’s funny because I’m pretty much a 60-year-old woman with technology. It’s not my first interest. Even when I’m handling an iPhone, my mom will ask me if I have the flashlight app and I’ll say ‘I don’t even know what that is’.
Now my perspective has definitely changed, people think I had to get one. It was very much a choice. It’s a way to stay connected and I thought it would distract me. Now I do have the time to keep up with pop culture and what’s trending. It’s fun to see high school students and everyone being really enthusiastic about running.