Olympic sprinter visits Woodbury schoolValley Crossing Community School got an early taste last week of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Valley Crossing Community School got an early taste last week of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Andrew Rock, 2004 Olympic gold medal sprinter, visited Valley Crossing April 11 to talk with students.
During his visit, Rock discussed his track career, the Olympics and answered questions from students.
Rock even held a few relay races with students.
Valley Crossing physical education teacher Amie Schroder reached out to Rock, who lives in Prior Lake, since the school’s annual field day this year will be based around the Olympic Games.
Schroeder and Rock ran track during separate years at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
“I looked him up and asked him if he’d be willing to speak with our students,” she said. “It’s important to see someone who has reached that high level success.”
Rock, 30, was just 10 years old when he first began track in his hometown of Stratford, Wis.
“Honestly, I was faster than most of the kids at recess,” he said.
Rock said he decided to stick with track because he had a lot of fun with it.
“I was good at it and I liked the competition aspect,” he said. “But I also liked the timing aspect and being able to see yourself improve.
“If you push yourself, you get out of it what you put into it.”
Rock ran track all through high school. The 400-meter dash was his specialty.
While at the UW-LaCrosse, Rock ran both the 400 meter dash and the 4-by-400 meter relay.
During his college career, Rock received nine national championships and was named an All-American 17 times.
It was Rock’s junior year of college when he first began thinking about competing in the Olympics.
“I wasn’t one of those who had been dreaming about this since they were 6 years old or anything,” he said.
He eventually began competing to qualify for the Olympic Trials his senior year.
“I kind of just took it as it went,” he said. “I wanted to get the opportunity to at least try.”
The summer after he graduated from college, Rock placed sixth in the Olympic Trials, thus granting him a ticket to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece to compete in the 4-by-400 meter relay.
“It was just a whirlwind,” he said. “It’s the pinnacle of the athletic world.”
Prior to the Olympic Games, and during, Rock trained for thousands of hours by lifting weights, running, watching his diet, getting plenty of sleep and doing rejuvenating therapies such as an ice bath or massage.
“People don’t really see what goes on behind the Olympic stadium,” he said. “It’s an entirely different lifestyle at that level.
“It’s a tremendous amount of dedication and time.”
Rock said the reality of how momentous the Olympic Games were really didn’t hit home for him until he took the stage during the opening ceremony.
“That’s when I really started appreciating that I was representing the country,” he said.
Rock said receiving the gold medal in the 4-by-400 meter relay was one of the best moments of his life.
“To be on that podium is the highlight of any athletic career,” he said.
Following the 2004 Olympic Games, Rock competed in the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, where he helped achieve another 4-by-400 gold medal victory.
Additionally, Rock won a silver medal in his individual 400-meter race and achieved a personal best time of 44.35 seconds.
Currently, Rock is an assistant track coach at Carlton College, in Northfield, Minn.
He is also currently working to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
“I can’t imagine going on and not having track involved in my life,” he said. “It’s a big part of who I am and what I know.”
Appreciate the journey
Rock said he enjoys being able to coach, and speak to students, because he wants to be able to advocate for the importance of sports.
“Athletics can be an amazing tool to help you achieve great things,” he said.
Rock said his experiences with track have taught him discipline, motivation, humility, trust, appreciation for the journey and appreciation for others.
“Those are all things that can transfer to other parts of your life,” he said.
Schroeder said she was happy to have Rock speak to classes because he was an example of what students can achieve.
“He came from a town of 1,500,” she said, “so, to know that you can start with such small roots and aspire to be one of the top athletes in the world, it’s a good example to students of what they can accomplish.”
Rock’s advice for students?
“Enjoy the journey getting there,” he said.