Q&A With Seasoned Olympian

Manhattan College sat down with alumna Aliann Pompey on the eve of her fourth Summer Olympic Games to hear more about her training schedule.

At 34 years old, Aliann Pompey ’99 & ’04 is a regular on the Olympics scene and is preparing to embark on her fourth Olympic Games, representing her native Guyana in London. Since her early days as a Jasper starting in 1995, Pompey has continued to excel on and off the track. Nowadays, she is also using her passion for education and sports to inspire future young athletes.

The track and field competition starts on Aug. 3, and Pompey will compete in the 400-meter dash in London. During the last two Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004, Pompey reached the 400-meter semifinals, and finished 11th overall in Beijing. Read more about her track career here at gojaspers.com.

Manhattan College sat down with alumna Aliann Pompey on the eve of the Summer Olympics to hear more about her training schedule, and how she manages a full-time job. Pompey is the director of the Armory College Prep program, which provides academic and athletic services to more than 200 underserved New York City high school students.

Question: When did you find out you qualified to represent Guyana at the 2012 Olympic Games?

Answer: I ran 51:66 in the USA Track & Field (USATF) Club Nationals at Icahn Stadium in New York City in June of last year, and I came home and received an email saying that I was inside the A Standard, the automatic standard for the Olympic Games.

Q: Can you tell me what your training schedule has been for this coming Summer Olympics, and what a typical training week is like for you?

A: A typical training week is six days a week with one day completely off and one day that is fairly light — it’s mostly flexibility and plyometrics stuff. And then the other days have various running exercises including strength endurance, sprints and speed endurance workouts.

I also do most of my training at Baker Athletic Complex at Columbia University, and twice a week, depending on the afternoon workout on the track, I will go for a long run in the morning.

Q: In the past year, how have you maintained such a busy training schedule with working full time?

A: Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard. When there is a schedule and a plan for the day and this is what you’re doing at this time, when the time is up, you just move on to the next thing.

I learned very early on that if I’m not following the schedule or something overlaps, everything else that follows gets out of whack. If I miss a meal, practice, work and sleep is thrown off.

Q: How do you work daily to change the lives of these young athletes at the Armory College Prep program?

A: It all depends on what their needs are. We have various services — college and financial aid counseling, free SAT prep classes, athletic coaching, basically anything that a student would possibly need in terms of resources to get to college — and we help them find scholarships.

It is a rewarding position and it’s a lot of fun too. The kids want to succeed, do better and achieve great things. The energy they bring into the situation is just positive all around.

It’s very unusual for any athlete of any sport to compete in four Olympics, and I think it’s extraordinary that an alumna from Manhattan College with our great track history has achieved what she has achieved. — Joe Ryan, assistant track coach

Q: How long have you been training with Manhattan College assistant track coach Joe Ryan, and what does it mean to you to have him by your side as a team official with the Guyanese team at the London Games?

A: Coach Ryan has been my coach since 1995, when I started my freshman year at Manhattan College. He has coached me through some great moments, and there have been times when I’ve been down a little due to an injury, whether it’s physically or mentally. At this point, he just knows exactly what to say, or what workouts to give me that mental kick, or push me when I need to be pushed, or to further back off when it’s time to rest.

I think, at this point, we are very much in sync. Even sometimes he will come to practice with a workout in mind and after the first run, he will either see that I need something more and is just really great at figuring that out.

I’m excited to have him by my side in London because this could be my last Olympics and for all intents and purposes, the last track meet of my career.

Q: How do you think your undergraduate, graduate and Division 1 experiences at Manhattan College helped to shape your running and professional career?

A: It definitely set a base. I was injured my senior year at Manhattan and I sort of finished my track career a little bit unfulfilled because I wasn’t able to do well at my last NCAA competition.

I didn’t want to end my track career on that note. So, I decided to do another year of post-collegiate track while pursuing my M.B.A., and it was just another year, another year and another year. And 12 years later, I’m still here another year.

I think it definitely put in my head there has to be a plan B. I did well on the academic side, as well, and just in case I got sick of running, I knew I needed to have my degree in front of my secular career to fall back on.

Q: What advice do you have for future Manhattan College athletes hoping to make it to the Olympics one day?

You always have a shot. It’s never over. The thing that I like about track and field versus other sports is that it’s all you on the track. But there are so many aspects of it that people can influence, can help and can motivate you, that you really never feel alone.

The other thing about it is that you personally get to choose who you surround yourself with, you personally get to choose who affects you, who influences you and who makes the most impact in your career. So, I would tell everyone to go for it and just remember that anything can happen good or bad and always have that backup plan.

*Photos courtesy of iaaf.org.