Kelly Parrish, Florida's top rated senior, has a tough decision on her hands. With her success has come the opportunity to run at any college of her choice. The Vanguard senior, who says she will be making her decision in early November, has narrowed her choices to five.
Tennessee, Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina and Arkansas are the programs that have made her final cut. She will be going on a whirlwind national tour over the next five weeks to visit each of them--yes, five college visits in five weeks! But she isn't worried about the hectic schedule impacting her cross country season.
"I don't feel like it will effect me," Parrish said in a phone interview, just after returning from a training run on in Tennessee--her first stop. "Travel is just another part of training for me," she continued, "I'm just going to try to stay on the same schedule and stay hydrated to prevent jetlag."
This weekend she got an early start on traveling, but over the next four weeks she will race Saturday morning before flying out in the afternoon. "We had (the visits) spaced out, but after looking at what was going to be feasible... we decided that it would be easier (to do them all in a row)."
And what about these five schools put them above the others?
Beyond the standard factors weighing in on the college decision process such as coaching philosophy and strength of program, Parrish explained she wants to be part of an established program with a strong history in the sport and where she can mix it up with different events. "I want to be able to keep my versatility... and be able to stay competitive in many events," she said.
And although some might let the individual success and being courted by collegiate legends such as Colorado's Mark Wetmore go to their head, Kelly's voice glowed when the topic of her teammates came up. "My team has been really supportive," she said, "they are really talented and (they) know that some of them will be in my shoes in a year or two." Parrish is excited about the team's state title chances this year, and sounded almost motherly when talking about the infinite potential of some of her team's young stars such as freshman Tori Lawson who are "watching and learning."
Kelly plans to focus her college studies in the direction of exercise science, which she jokes really means she just wants to coach some day. She also dreams of continuing her running career after college. But for the time being, she'll be spending much her weekends fighting sleep during that long layover in Houston.