Interview by Ciarán Ó’Lionáird (as published in the ‘Evening Echo’)
Colin Costello, one of Ireland’s brightest prospects, decided this
past summer to make the much-talked about move to the USA, and the
University of Arkansas, in a bid to take his fledgling career to the
next level. He parted company with coach Rob Denmead after winning
gold at the European Junior 1500m title in Lithuania in July and set
his sights on new challenges at Arkansas, under renowned Coach John
MacDonnell, citing a lack of support on the behalf of the Sports
Council for Ireland’s young athletes, in terms of both money and
facilities as one of the main reasons for his departure. In this
interview, he reveals his confidence in the choice he has made, and
his happiness with his current regime.
How are you finding life at Arkansas? How big a change is it from life
at home in Meath?
It’s a big change, really. The training itself was a big shock at
first. It’s hard out here, you know. I miss my family and friends at
home a little too, but the guys here, especially Alistair (Cragg),
have made me feel right at home. You have to fend for yourself here,
but I’m enjoying it. Training in a group is great and there is always
someone fresh on a given day, ready to push the pace.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make to adapt to this new
The training, for sure. I had to adjust to fit the system. Training is
a lot tougher here. Yesterday we had a steady 10miler and Alistair and
Josphat (Boit, Arkansas current XC star) finished in like 49mins. The
pace is hot here. But with a group it’s good, there’s always someone
to run with. It’s tough as well not having your friends around. But
Alistair and the boys have really welcomed me, and I have a great
group of friends here now, so it’s cool.
This year was probably Arkansas’ best recruiting year ever. How does
it feel to be part of such a potentially successful group of runners?
It has been our best ever recruiting year. In the distances there’s
myself, and Chris Barnicle and Kenny Cormier. Both are nationally
ranked runners are strong as horses. Cormier was US high school XC
champ last year. We also brought in a great sprint talent, J-Mee
Samuels. He broke the high school record in the 100m this past summer.
There’s a lot of hot prospects but we all get along and that is the
reason I came here, to be with the best. The success can rub off and
the fact that I can keep pace with the big-guys in training will give
me huge confidence going into races.
How has Coach MacDonnell’s training and outlook matched your
expectations so far?
It’s exceeded them. He is a legend. That’s all there is to it. Who has
won the most conference and national titles. Coach Mac. He’s not on
top of you; he gives you space but looks after you well. I really
respect him and do exactly what he says. He’s really just a top guy.
Do you believe that you are supported better at Arkansas than you were
back at home under the grants system?
There are just no worries over here. Everything is looked after. We
eat all our meals in the canteen for free and the food is top-notch as
we have an eating plan set up. You just have to worry about classes
and workouts. It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. It’s one of
the reasons I came, the support. You can’t be relying on your parents
forever, you know. This is a great bridge from junior to senior level
and I’m feeling more confident about it every day.
Do you have to pay for anything on a regular basis? What would be your
weekly expenditure out of pocket?
The only expenditure is for luxuries. Our meals are sorted and besides
a few minor things here and there like toiletries or whatever there’s
not much. Our gear is supplied by Adidas and that’s great. Maybe going
to the cinema and things but we get a certain amount of living
expenses a semester. Usually my weekly expenditure wouldn’t exceed
Do you experience any of the student social life with all the hard training?
We train hard but we have fun too. All the team hang out together and
there’s a great buzz. Coach encourages that from the start because if
you don’t relax and have fun then if you get injured it’s really
depressing. We enjoy ourselves but we are focused as well. There isn’t
too much messing, to be honest.
How tough is the academic side of things. Do you carry a large study-load?
I think it’s a lot easier than in Ireland in terms of academics. To
get a degree back home is difficult with the hard training. Here it’s
a perfect mix. That said if you don’t make the grades here you can’t
run, so there’s a real incentive to study. I just do a little
everyday, just to keep on top of things.
Do you plan on staying in Arkansas after college like Cragg and other
Arkansas will be my home, yeah, for the next few years at least. There
are a lot of positive vibes here. The facilities are poor in Ireland
and everybody tries to knock you. There is so much negativity there,
and the rain is so depressing. I see myself staying here until I
retire from athletics.
Now you are racing for the good of the team as well as yourself,
unlike in Ireland. How are you dealing with that added pressure?
I will thrive under that pressure, no doubt. Being part of a team is
great. In DCU it was more individual. Everyone here helps and supports
each other. For example, if Alistair is racing somewhere then Coach
will send a few guys up to pace him. Even Alistair has done some
pacing for Josphat and the guys this XC season. It’s a case of “You
scrub my back, I’ll scrub yours”. We look out for each other no matter
Finally, what are your goals for the coming year?
I want to get in the mix in the big American races. No precise
predictions but I’d like to make the finals of the National (NCAA)
Championships indoors and out. Also I would like to qualify for the
European Senior Championships in Sweden. The time is pretty attainable
but a few guys might get it so there could be a race-off. I’m also
going to give the Cross-Country a lash back home this November, and
hopefully make the European Junior team. We should have a great team
so I’m looking forward to that.
It is great to see a young talent make the most of his abilities, and
at Arkansas Colin Costello seems to be doing just that. Time will tell
whether the move will be a long-term success, but judging by his
current positive attitude and confidence in his surroundings, Colin
Costello should have a lot to offer on both the collegiate and
international track scene this coming year and beyond.