The University of Mississippi is a long way from home for one member of the men’s track and field team. International athlete and Ole Miss sophomore Sean Tobin has made huge strides forward since arriving in Oxford in the spring of 2014, and he has cemented himself as one of the key figures on the cross-country team. Along the way, he has adjusted to a new country and culture thanks to the passion he has for his sport.
Hotty Toddy: Where are you from?
Tobin: I am originally from Clonmel, in Ireland. The population is similar to here in Oxford, so when looking for a school I wanted the right sized area and a pure college town. My hometown is in a valley. so we have beautiful mountains surrounding us. I always had nice trails and grass to run on when I was growing up. Unlike Oxford, where it’s often essential to have a car or another means of transportation to get around, in Clonmel everything is in walking range.
Hotty Toddy: When did you start running track seriously?
Tobin: Thinking back, I started taking my running seriously when I was 16. I was a keen runner before this, but never really pushed myself too much until I got to 16. It was at this age when I felt like I wanted to step up the intensity of my training and see where running could take me. Looking back, it was a fruitful decision.
Hotty Toddy: What are your favorite events?
Tobin: I really love cross-country because of the variety of courses. As opposed to being on the track, you really do get to explore some beautiful areas that you might otherwise never get to see. This has always appealed to me since I first started taking part in the event. Also, I’m just a big fan of the team aspect. We are a very close-knit team here at Ole Miss and spend a lot of time together, both on and off the course. Compared to back home in Ireland, where I don’t spend as much time with my running partners, it makes the training that much more enjoyable when I’m always around my friends. Another thing I like about cross-country is that it takes a lot of mental toughness to be a good runner in this distance. Some runs can feel like they will never end, but I like this aspect as it always challenges me. Away from cross-country, I also enjoy doing the mile and really like racing the occasional 800-meter event.
Hotty Toddy: Why did you choose to come here?
Tobin: I chose Ole Miss for many reasons, but there are some that stand out more than others for me. Firstly, there is so much potential for this to be an amazing program, and I could tell from my visit that it had enormous potential to improve. I think our results over the past few seasons reflect this, too. We have made strides towards the very top of the Southeastern Conference, and our goal will be to win the team event this season. We also made the NCAA championships last year, which was historic for the program here at Ole Miss. On top of that, I believe that this program has everything from the right coaches to support staff to make me a successful student athlete.
Hotty Toddy: What do you like about being at the university and being on the track team?
Tobin: I love the pride and passion that the students and people of Oxford have for the university. That really struck me when I first started out here and something that I instantly admired. The traditions here are like no other and our team is like a family. We are willing to do anything to help support each other. I’ve also noticed that other athletics teams seem to have great chemistry, too, and I think that goes to show the great support systems that are in place here. There is always someone to help you out if you are having an especially tough day, which is important to me. I imagine other international students encounter days where they especially miss home and their family, so the support systems here are very helpful.
Hotty Toddy: What have been the biggest adjustments you’ve found as an international student or as a student-athlete?
Tobin: The biggest adjustment was getting used to doing everything myself. My parents aren’t here to support me so I had to take things under my own feet. Because of this, I have grown up as a person, which in turn has helped my running. The weekdays here are challenging, as you have to balance your training with classes and homework. It is important for me to stick to my routines, that way I am able to keep on top of everything as best I can.
Hotty Toddy: What are your favorite things about being a track athlete?
Tobin: My favorite things about being a track athlete are hard to break down, to be honest. I have a great group of guys who I get to work with every day. I will be able to call on the friendships I’ve made on the team for the rest of my life, which is fantastic. Also, traveling and getting to see all parts of the country has been an incredible experience and reminds me how far away I am from Ireland.
Hotty Toddy: What advice would you give to a young track athlete who wanted to be successful?
Tobin: A wise man would always tell me stay smart and stay healthy. I think if you follow this advice and stay patient, mentally tough, and enjoy the process of being an athlete, you are on the right track to being successful.
Hotty Toddy: What advice would you give to international athletes who want to consider going to a university in the States?
Tobin: First of all, do your research. Get to know the coaches, the school, the team and find somewhere you believe you will be happy. The key to success, above all, is being happy.
Hotty Toddy: What do you like most about Mississippi culture?
Tobin: The hospitality of Mississippi is amazing. I almost couldn’t believe it when I first came. The people of Oxford are always very supportive and friendly. I also enjoy that everything is laid back. The people here don’t think too far ahead. They take things day by day and, ultimately, are happy to be here.
Story contributed by Joe Rogers, Ole Miss history major and journalism minor, firstname.lastname@example.org.