It has now been almost a year since Matthew LeMoine donned the blue and white on the track for the Seton Hall Pirates. LeMoine ran for four years at North Rockland High School in Thiells, New York, before walking on to Seton Hall’s cross-country team. While one of the top runners on his high school team and in the county, he knew he would have to walk on to a Division I program after not being heavily recruited his senior year. His journey would be much different than some of his teammates who were earning full-ride scholarships for their running abilities on the course and on the track.
LeMoine has thus ended his career at the Hall but is now working towards a new athletic goal, qualifying for the New York City Marathon. He will be running in a half-marathon in Chicago this September with hopes to have the chance to make it to one of New York City’s greatest events.
I caught up with Matthew to discuss his collegiate cross-country career and the impact it has had on life after the sport:
Daniel LeMoine: Do you believe that being a walk-on to Seton Hall’s team benefited you as you had to work harder to prove your abilities?
Matthew LeMoine: I definitely think that with the lack of recruiting from D-I programs, I learned how to reach another gear both physically and mentally. I was not guaranteed a spot anywhere, yet I had the passion and drive to pursue a furthering in my running career and hopefully maybe even get to a point where I can earn a scholarship in my upperclassmen years.
In my first meeting with Coach Moon, Seton Hall head cross-country coach, I knew that there were not any more scholarships left for me and that was okay. It was not about the money for me, while obviously it would’ve helped, I was more concerned with doing what I love and proving myself. It was different going from a top runner in high school to someone who was working to earn himself a spot on a team.
Daniel LeMoine: Take me through a normal week as a D1 cross country runner at Seton Hall. All of the long, difficult days with practice, class, workouts and meets.
Matthew LeMoine: First of all, being a D-I athlete is certainly a grind but I think that you can take a lot of positives and learn from being one. We would have practice Monday through Friday, every morning around 6:00 a.m. We would rack up our mileage and work towards specific goals we had for the week. Sometimes practices were on campus on the track inside the Rec Center, sometimes they were even at local parks in the South Orange community. A normal week would consist of 45-50 miles, with some weeks even expanding north of that.
After practice we would have to shower in the locker rooms, grab a bite to eat for breakfast and then classes began. This is all before 9:00am I should mention. On days where I had three classes, it would be a struggle. Having waken up so early, running 8-10 miles and then going to classes was not always fun. But it taught me sacrifice and balance. I knew that academics come first and always had to balance my athletics with schoolwork, making sure I had enough time to study for tests, do homework, and other assignments for my classes.
Finally, after completing the long and vigorous week, we would have meet day which is where all of our physical work and effort was put towards. We would travel on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays up and down the east coast. We would have meets in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida. Then you have the championships that ranged over a variety of Midwest states such as Wisconsin. Meets were always the best part because of the adrenaline you felt and seeing your hard work payoff is just amazing.
DL: What are the biggest takeaways from being a D-I athlete? What did you learn and what has stuck with you into life after Seton Hall?
ML: Like I previously mentioned, one of the biggest things for me was the balance of life. That means balancing athletics, academics, family, social life, clubs and so much more. I had to learn very early in my collegiate career how to prioritize aspects of my life and learn what was most important at that time. Academics always came first for me and I always held a very high GPA, displaying my work ethic in the classroom and recognizing that my athletic career would not be where it is without my grades.
I also had to learn a balance of a busy week. Instead of maybe going out to dinner with friends on a Thursday night, I found it was more important to do my homework that is due Sunday or Monday since I know we have a meet in Delaware for the next two days. I also learned skills of time management and worked my schedule so that I had time to practice my skill running-wise, do my work and also have fun because all in all, I was a college student.
Balance and discipline were key for me over the course of my four years and while there were definitely some roadblocks, I always worked to persevere and use those moments as learning experiences for the future. I had a healthy dose of athletics, academics, social life and family during my time at Seton Hall which made my life much more enjoyable and way easier.
DL: What advice would you give to a runner who is not being heavily recruited and wants to walk on to a D-I program as you did?
ML: Work. Work. Work. No one is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. You always hear athletes talk about the work they put in behind closed doors when no one is watching. As corny as it may sound, it really is the difference between making a team and not. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run after high school, but I put that doubt aside when I started working out in the gym and running nonstop by myself. I was fortunate enough to have great coaches and teammates in high school that continued to push me and taught me the drive you needed to succeed in a mentally tough sport. Prove yourself and don’t leave any room for doubt in regard to your work ethic and passion.