Photos By Richard Svaleson
Alex Bartholomay has had many emotions over the last seven months. In one instance, he was elated. The senior distance runner captured a Summit League championship in the indoor 3000-meter run in late February. On course for a stellar outdoor season, Bartholomay was looking to add to his already loaded accolade list.
However, much like his teammates, Bartholomay was met with intense sadness upon learning that there would be no outdoor season. In fact, the global pandemic bled into Bartholomay’s senior cross country season this fall with the sport being postponed. As would any human, Bartholomay and his fellow teammates were frustrated. They returned to campus ready to compete this fall. To be stifled again was incredibly disheartening.
Yet, Bartholomay is an optimist, who continues to place his eyes on the future and not the past. The frustration he feels is not a hindrance to him or his team. In fact, it is that frustration that continues to motivate Bartholomay for future competition. Channeling any negative thoughts into positive outcomes has prepared Bartholomay for when he can run competitively again.
Bartholomay discusses his roller coaster of emotions in the spring, his focus on the future and how he continues to work hard in hopes of competing soon.
Track & field went through some emotional times back in March. You
won the Summit League championship in the indoor 3000-meter one week and the next week the outdoor season was canceled. How did you react to that news and how did you adapt given the prepare for each season given the circumstances?
Right away, it was a big shock to everyone, I think. We weren’t really expecting it, but we knew it could happen. We knew that COVID would be a problem, but we at least thought we’d get a meet or two outdoors before anything too major happened. Everything got shut down within a couple of days there and we all packed up and got sent home. Throughout the whole process, Andrew [Carlson] was talking to us and we were all pretty sad, but he kept in contact with us and made sure we were all right.
During the rest of the spring, Andrew did a good job of trying to keep it fun for us, training-wise. He would have us plan to go out and run on a road one day, on our own, but we would record our times. So we would do little competitive things like that within our team. That helped take some of the pressure off going out and training every day. It made us feel like we were still training for something.
Many thought that fall sports would not be impacted by the pandemic. However, fall sports were postponed to spring back in August. That has to be frustrating as a student-athlete. How have you channeled that frustration into motivation and kept your eyes forward?
It’s about keeping your eyes focused on the future. For me, it took a couple of days in the spring because I did take it pretty hard. I just told myself that there was nothing I could do and that I had to go out and get the dream done on my own and look towards the future. When we get to compete again, we’ll be ready to go. Then we found out cross country was going to be canceled, but I have tried to keep the same mindset through all of this. You have to keep going outside every day and putting in the work.
Have you had to alter the way you prepare for each season given the switch up in seasons?
For the most part, it hasn’t changed too much. Once we got back to school this fall, we have kind of built up a little bit slower than what we would do for most cross country seasons. We’re still showing up to practice every day, doing workouts and our long runs. Andrew has just switched it to where we basically have one extra “easy” day once a week. Normally, we would not have that. For the most part, we’re trying to treat it like we’re in season still.
How do you continue to stay motivated in a time full of negative thoughts and how does that relate to your teammates?
It helps when you have practice every day. It’s a time where we can come together and put in that work together. We are treating it like any other year where we show up to practice and work hard together. That is kind of what we’re used to as student-athletes. Showing up to practice each day holds everyone accountable. We have had some guys who have had to quarantine and everything, but we still check in on them during that process. If they’re healthy, we check in and make sure they’re still training. We have a good group of guys that are able to look towards the future and understand what we’re going through. We know there will be another chance for us to compete at some point.
I just told myself that there was nothing I could do and that I had to go out and get the dream done on my own and look towards the future. When we get to compete again, we’ll be ready to go.
Distance running really is a year-round sport. How do you keep a competitive edge over the course of 12 months, especially now?
It’s knowing that we’re going to get that competition back at some point. There will be days where we’ll be doing a workout and you get that competitive feeling with your teammates. You’re pushing each other and if you’re doing a hill workout, you want to beat each other up that hill. It’s not the same as a race, but you have to accept it as a competitive feeling.
What has this pandemic shown you about NDSU student- athletes, coaches and administrators?
We have a culture around here of winning. All of the student-athletes that come here understand that too. We understand that you have to be putting in work year-round to continue that culture of winning conference and national championships. Student-athletes understand that even if we are not competing right now, we cannot take a break. If we take a break, we’re going to lose that chance coming back for more championships in the future. We were in contact with coaches and administrators and they helped keep us motivated through it all. They are motivated individuals too. I think it is that culture that we do have that will help us through it all.