Ryan Udvadia has spent much of his running career at the front of the pack, but sometimes it’s wise, even for a top runner like Udvadia, to follow someone else.
That is essentially what the Shoreham man did when he found that life at High Point University in North Carolina wasn’t what he had envisioned. Udvadia wanted to transfer. He consulted Bob Szymanski, his coach at Shoreham-Wading River High School, about it, and then mentioned to his former Shoreham teammate Matt Gladysz that he wanted to make a move. Gladysz suggested University at Albany, the same school he runs for currently as a sophomore middle-distance runner.
Udvadia checked the school out. It wasn’t the facilities, however, that sold him on Albany, but the people.
“It was the people that brought me in,” said Udvadia, a junior in his third semester at Albany who runs cross country and track and field for the Great Danes. “It was the coaches, the athletes, the athletic department, the staff there. The head coach, coach [Roberto] Vives, he’s definitely a good salesman.”
The arrangement seems to have worked well for both parties. Udvadia recently contributed to Albany’s 12th consecutive America East indoor championship and 14th in 15 years, winning two individual titles himself at Boston University’s Track and Tennis Center. He finished first in the 5,000 meters in 14 minutes, 32.6 seconds (beating his personal record by about 1/10th of a second) and first in the 3,000 in 8:21.82 (two seconds off his personal record) the following day.
“I would say it was probably the toughest double to do in a conference meet,” said Udvadia.
And that wasn’t all. At the IC4A and ECAC Indoor Championships in Boston Saturday, Udvadia shattered the Albany record in the 5,000, coming in second place in 14:13.30. The previous mark of 14:24.30 was set by Aliaksandr Leuchanka. It is also faster than the outdoor record of 14:19.37 set in 1994 by William Vanos.
Albany won the IC4A and ECAC Indoor Championships for the first time in its history.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Vives, named the Men’s Coach of the Year for the Northeast region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, said of Udvadia. “He’s been doing a great, great job and he continues to improve.”
Udvadia credited assistant coach Matt Jones, the head coach of the cross-country team, for helping him maintain a high fitness level and teammate Kyle Gronostaj, his training partner, for pushing him.
Albany, like High Point, is an NCAA Division I team, but it is different, Udvadia has found. “The level of expectation at Albany is greater,” he said. “That’s sort of what I like about this place. They push for excellence. You want to do the incredible here.”
Udvadia said the most valuable thing he has learned as a college long-distance runner was how to become mentally tougher and manage races. “Half of the race, it’s a mental game,” he said.
This past cross-country season Udvadia was second in the conference. It was a breakthrough of sorts for the accounting major.
“It was sort of an eye-opener in that if I push my body a little further and put in the mileage and mentally engage my mind more, I can accomplish more than what I think,” he said.
Asked for his thoughts on his indoor season, Udvadia said: “It’s been going great. Every meet has just been another personal best, another learning experience.”
Vives said: “He’s on his way to doing some great things and he’s healthy, he’s happy. I think this spring he’s just going to take off.”
Photo caption: Ryan Udvadia of Shoreham, a SUNY/Albany junior, was a double winner in the recent America East Indoor Championships in Boston. (Credit: Doug Austin, courtesy photo)