December 10th, 2010
"20 Questions" With Toby Ulm
Georgetown senior track and fielder takes on the Questions
Each week, CatholicSportsNet.com will be getting to know a new student-athlete from around the country, by asking him/her a series of 20 questions - some in-depth, some lighthearted - that will provide insight into the thoughts and personalities of the men and women who are doing great things on and off the courts, fields, tracks, and courses.
During his time with Georgetown University, senior Toby Ulm has compiled a laundry list of track and field accomplishments as high as the hurdles he clears.
As a member of the Hoyas, Ulm has ran the ninth-fastest 400m hurdles in the country (50.23), was a 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships qualifier in the 400m hurdles, is No. 3 on the 400m Hurdles on the GU all-time list, placed third in the 400m hurdles at the 2009 East Regionals, and placed second in the 500m at the 2010 BIG EAST Indoor Championships.
Ulm, who grew up in England (Marlborough, U.K.) was also extremely successful in high school and his sprinting/hurdling skills have improved even moreso since his time at G'town. After the New Year, Georgetown will host the indoor track and field Hoya Invitational. Before then, Ulm recently took time out to answer the CatholicSportsNet.com "20 Questions," and his answers are below.
1. How did you choose the college you attend?
Since I grew up in rural England I didn’t want to attend a big state school. I wanted a school that would challenge me academically and also wanted to be part of a developing sprints program. Georgetown ticked all the boxes. When I first walked onto campus during my official visit I just got that feeling that says “this is where you belong. This is your new home.”
2. What is your favorite part of college athletics?
The NCAA is the most competitive Track system in the world. Racing fast kids every week is the most exciting part of college athletics.
3. How do you balance academics and your sport?
The same way every other student-athlete does: we just do. I go from class to practice and then to the library. I don’t know any other way of life, so I don’t find the balance that difficult.
4. What is the hardest part about being a student athlete?
Being taken seriously. At the end of my sophomore year when I went to get my philosophy major declaration sheet signed by my faculty advisor, I wore track clothes. Before signing the form, he looked me up and down and said, “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” I was. Since then I’ve always been very concerned that I am perceived as an athlete-student, not a student-athlete. Yes I’m faster than most people but that shouldn’t define who I am. I guess that’s why I always wear a track t-shirt while tutoring regular student’s papers in the Writing Center.
5. What do you do for fun when you aren’t in class or at practice?
Reading over what I’ve said so far makes me look really nerdy and to say I play scrabble during my free time probably won’t do much to disarm that impression. I also love American Football. I’m at the fifth year track guy’s house every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday.
6. What is the best characteristic that you bring to your teammates?
We go to practice to work out. And while we have a lot of fun along the way I hold our training group to a very high standard. My training group has a saying: “we’re not happy because we run well, we run well because we’re happy.” I do a pretty good job at keeping everyone happy, and that keeps us all at the standard I expect.
7. What does your team do as a pre meet ritual?
I don’t have any physical rituals. Racing all over the country during the collegiate season and then Europe during the summer means you have to deal with a lot of different warm-up areas. Some facilities are amazing and others aren’t so great. If I had any physical rituals I’d be worried that I wouldn’t be able to do them at every meet. During the outdoor season, however, I always visualize my hurdles race the night before. I always race the same guy in my head when I visualize and I always have to beat him, regardless of how many times I have to replay the race in my mind.
8. What music do you listen to before a meet?
I don’t listen to music before meets. I’m too busy joking with my training group.
9. What role does your faith play throughout school, games, and practice?
10. Favorite pro team to watch?
I was born in Bath in England. As a result I’m a pretty hardcore Bath Rugby fan. I’ve got a few friends who are currently trying to break into their first team. While I can’t watch any of the games due to the time difference, track practice, and not having the right satellite channel, I’m always glued to the Internet to see if they won each week.
11. What is your coach’s best quality?
He listens. He always asks us how we’re feeling and talks to us about each session. If we’re not feeling great that day or if the times seem too slow or too fast we let him know and we work together to get the most out of every session. We don’t always win and sometimes we just have to do what master tells us, but there is always loads of communication. Coach Lagrenade is literally the bomb.
12. Why is a team captain(s) so important to the team?
You need a leader; someone who will stand up and be counted for when training gets tough, someone who performs every week, someone who others will look up to, and someone who can communicate effectively with all their teammates and get the best out of them. Admittedly I don’t always get all these things right, but I’m working on it.
13. How does your team handle defeat? What do you say to your team after a tough loss?
We don’t lose that often. Track is an odd sport in that regard. At any given meet you’ll always have some people who race well and others who don’t. For the coaches and captains it’s a balancing act. You have to congratulate those who do well and react accordingly to those who don’t. When it comes down to big meets, like conference champs and beyond, we always have a goal about where we should finish individually and as a team. We don’t tend to fall below what’s expected of us. For us, it’s performance that counts. When we perform we win.
14. What is your favorite pre meet snack?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to drop brand names in my answers, so I’m gonna go with a certain type of breakfast bar.
15. Favorite movie quote?
“Then we will fight in the shade” - 300
16. What advice do you have for young student athletes as they decide where to go to college?
Have an idea about what you’re interests are and be honest with your self. If you want to have a great time while also receiving a great education there are schools that offer that, or if you want to compete and party for four years there are schools that offer that too. Bare in mind that if you choose the former you’ll have a lot a miserable nights in the library, especially around finals time, but the payoff is massive. You ultimately get out of your college career what you put in. It terms of athletics, you’re going to perform your best if you’re happy. If you’re lucky enough to get recruited and go on some official visits, choose the school that feels like home.
17. Best smart phone app?
Words with friends (the scrabble app)
18. How do you think your involvement in college sports and academics will benefit you when you begin to look for a job?
I’m not sure. It can be very difficult to gain real-world experience though internships since we’re significantly busier than regular students. Summer internships are an alternative but if you’re like me this can likewise be impossible since I compete till late July. Getting involved with on-campus clubs can show employers you have some real-world experience so I would advise that. Having spoken with many employers that come to campus, highlighting the non-athletic skills that college athletics gives you (thinks like time-management, determination, being part of a team) are all things that potential employers like to hear.
19. What does it mean to play athletics for a Catholic college?
I love Georgetown. We stand for a set of values that we keep in mind when we compete.
20. What is your proudest athletic achievement?
I’ve got three-way tie: either the ISF world U18 champs I won my junior year of high school; the bronze I picked up at European Juniors my senior year of high school; or the pr I ran for the indoor 500m last year, it was the second fastest time in the world during the 2010 season, a Georgetown school record, and a British national record.