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Interview with the Expert: Andrew Rock

In this installment of “Interview with the Expert” we have the privilege of talking with Andrew Rock, the 2006 USA Outdoor 400m champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, and collegiate Academic All-American. Topics discussed include balancing NCAA sports with academics, “highs” and “lows” of being a professional athlete and incorporating weight training into his overall preparation program.

About Andrew Rock

Figure 1. Andrew Rock, far left after placing 2nd at the 2005 World Outdoor Championships with a time of 44.35 seconds. Picture posted with permission.

In this installment of “Interview with the Expert” we have the privilege of talking with Andrew Rock. Hailing from small town Wisconsin, Mr. Rock has carved out a successful track career… During his senior year of high school, Andrew won 4 individual events at the 2000 Track and Field State Championships; a feat that has never been duplicated1. From there, Andrew took his talents to the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse where he became a 17-time NCAA D-III All-American2. Of equal importance, he epitomized the student-athlete, being named to the 2003 and 2004 Academic All-American first team by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Andrew’s hard work and determination also led to success as a professional athlete. He was the 2006 USA Outdoor 400m champion (time – 44.40 sec). In 2005, at the World Outdoor Championships, Andrew placed second in the 400m with a time of 44.35s and was the leadoff leg of the 4×400 meter relay team that took first. This was not Andrew’s first taste of international success. He was also a member of the 4×400 m relay team that took first at the 2004 Summer Olympic games in Athens, Greece (Andrew was the 3rd leg in the preliminary rounds).

Mr. Rock, on behalf of the readers here at CasePerformance, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us. It’s a true honor to have you with us today.

While growing up, where you involved in a variety of sports or stick mostly with running?

I played basketball from 4th grade through my senior year of high school. I also played football from 5th grade until 9th grade. Running was always my favorite, however, as I got involved in a track club when I was 10 years old. I really fell in love with the sport and having been running since then. I did a lot of summer meets until Junior High and then mainly focused on the school’s track program. So, I guess I have been involved in running for 19 years.

Coming out of High School, were you heavily recruited? In the end, what led you to enrolling at the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse?

I was recruited primarily by Division 3 schools in the state of WI. The only Division I schools to recruit me were University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin-Madison. I gave a strong look at UW-Madison, but they waited until after the state meet my senior year to recruit me which was just too late. I ultimately chose to attend University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse because it offered many things that I liked… First, it provided me the opportunity to receive a great education in an accredited Business School. Second, I had developed a strong relationship with Mark Guthrie (the track coach) as he was the very first coach to recruit me. I was impressed with Coach Guthrie’s ability to communicate and understand athletes. Furthermore, he was a man of great character. Finally, the program’s tradition was very attractive to me. UW-L was and has been one of the top Division 3 teams in the country. I knew I was going to be coached by someone who was going to make me better, just as he had done with so many athletes prior to my arrival.

As mentioned above, you personified the student athlete, earning 1st team All-American Academic accolades multiple times. Between training, competing, and everything else, that is a pretty amazing accomplishment. To the current or future student-athlete reading this interview, are there any tips you’d share with them regarding this topic?

Above all, getting a solid education is priority. This is something that will affect you for the rest of your life. I went to college to get a great education and I was fortunate enough to have a great track experience as well. Admittedly so, it is a huge challenge to balance academics and athletics. However, I do believe that they complement each other well. You must be disciplined and truly committed to balancing all of your activities or it will not work. I think learning how to do that carries over in success for both sides and ultimately transfers to the working world. Athletics is a great metaphor for life.

Moving onto your professional career…

When did you realize that you had a realistic chance at making the 2004 Summer Olympic Team that competed in Athens?

It wasn’t until after my junior year of college where won the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Nationals with a time of 45.29 seconds. I realized that this type of time could put me in the field with some of the best in the country. I never had given much thought to my participation in the Olympics before that meet.

What was it like attending and competing at ’04 Games in Athens?

It was an absolute thrill. It is the highest level of achievement in the sport and it was such a whirl-wind to be a part of those 2 months after running at the NCAA Division 3 National Championships. The people, the stadium, the country, winning a gold medal, my family, the village, opening ceremonies are all the highlights that I will remember forever.

Something my college coach always told me which best sums it up is, “The medals, plaques, rings, etc. will tarnish and fade, but the memories will last forever.”

Were there any particular stories regarding your experiences as an Olympic Athlete that you could share with us?

The opening ceremonies were a huge highlight for me. First, we got to meet all of the NBA players which was an amazing experience. Secondly, walking into that stadium for the first time, with USA on your shirt, is an experience that I will never forget. At that moment I realized that I was not just representing myself but all the people and organizations that have helped me get to this point (my family, friends, coaches, UW-L, Stratford, and finally your country). I stood as a representative of my country for all of these people and so many more I have never met. It is an amazing responsibility with an unbelievable reward.

In the United States, the general population only gets excited for track and field during Olympic years. Based off your experience, is this similar in the other countries as well?

No, track and field is gigantic in Europe. We compete there in the summers and it is very normal to have 50,000 people at some of the bigger meets. They do not have the NFL, NBA, etc, so Track and Field is huge. It is pretty neat to see the excitement they have for the sport.

What are the highs and lows of being a professional athlete?

The highs are that you get to compete and continue on doing something that you absolutely love. I have gotten to see and be in places that I would have never, otherwise, gotten too. I have met many people that have made an impact on me. Also, I think reaching the level I have has taught me how to push my body farther than I ever thought it could go.

The lows would be the amount of time it takes to compete at that level (including travel, training, rehab, etc). Of course, the pressure involved is difficult as well. You put all these years of work into it and it comes down to one day/race that will probably be separated by a few hundredths of a second. Those few hundredths will determine if you make it to the Olympics or not, that is pressure.

During your professional career, how heavy of an emphasis was there placed on resistance training and nutrition by your coaches?

A tremendous emphasis has been placed on resistance training; it has made a big impact in my level of competing. I went from not lifting at all in High School, to making it an integral part of my training. I am fortunate to have worked with an unbelievable strength coach, Dennis Kline, who I met while at UW-Lacrosse. He truly is a mastermind in this field. Early on, he made me realize that if a strength exercise doesn’t transfer to your performance, than it is the wrong way to train. This sounds like a simple concept, but many common training exercises either have no effect, little effect or possibly even a negative effect on one’s performance

Can you share with our readers what resistance exercises you’ve found to best translate over to to the track?

There are so many different lifts that I do that translate to the track. I think I can summarize like this:

  • 1. It is valuable what time of year you do certain lifts.
  • 2. Following a traditional pyramid approach is what we do not typically do with lifting.

In stating that, the lifts that are most important would be cleans (hang and power), snatch (hang, power, close grip), squats (front & back), and 1 legged exercises (step-ups, 1 leg squat, telemark squat).

For the most part, our reps are between 2 and 8. Rest periods are critical and tempo of the lift is critical.

We also do a fair amount of upper body “range of motion” type exercises and some upper body strength exercises.

On average, how often do you weight train during the in-season and off-season time periods?

I weight train 4 days of week when I am not racing that week or in the off-season and three days a week if I am racing that week. Everything is geared towards a peak and tailored with my running workouts. A typical week would see Monday and Thursday with similar lifts and Tuesday and Friday with similar lifts.

Were there any nutritional supplements that you took?

The only supplement I have ever taken is a multi-vitamin. I use Power Bars and protein/carb RTD’s (ready to drinks) for convenience in order to get calories right after a workout, but that is about it.

After 2008, you slowed down with respect to competing at the international level. What spurred this decision?

Many reasons really. I had Achilles Tendonitis in 2009 which lasted many months. This was the first real injury that I ever had in my career. I also felt fairly overwhelmed with competing on this level and may have burned out some. I talked about the pressure earlier on and that definitely took a toll on me. These are the major reasons as to why I haven’t raced all that much recently.

The question everyone wants to know, what are you doing now and do you have any plans to make a push for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games?

I am currently the sprints coach at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. I love coaching athletes and have immensely enjoyed this opportunity. I think having another focus in my life is a great thing and it has allowed me to stay involved with the sport. I also spend a lot of time with my family. My wife, Melissa, and I have two children; a daughter, Athulya, adopted from India and a son, Isaiah, who was born this past spring.

Although my racing schedule has been limited, I have trained at a high level these past couple of years, keeping the door open for 2012. No predictions for certain, but it is a possibility. I love this sport and will always be involved in it.

I realize that thoroughly answering these questions takes a lot of time and effort on your part. Thus, on behalf of the readers here at CasePerformance, I want to once again thank you for taking time out of your busy day to join us. It was a true pleasure to have you hear with us today.


1 Wisconsin High School Track and Field. Andrew Rock. 2007. Accessed March 15, 2011 from: http://www.wisconsintrackandfield.com/bios/andrewrock.html

2 USA Track and Field. Andrew Rock. 2008. Accessed March 15, 2011 from: http://www.usatf.org/athletes/bios/Rock_Andrew.asp

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Written on July 17, 2011 by Sean Casey
Last Updated: July 17, 2011

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time as an intern physical preparation coach at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL. He also spent time as an intern and later worked at Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. While at these locations he had the opportunity to train football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes. Sean is also active in the field of sports nutrition where he has consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Nutrition Consultation tab.