Drew Piazza is feeling stronger than ever, and just in time for this weekend’s America East Conference Championships in New York.
The elite junior currently owns some of the fastest college times in the nation in his events. Piazza is ranked sixth in the NCAA in the 800-meter race with a time of 1-minute, 47.28- seconds, and second in the 1,000-meter race with 2:21.97. These blistering times are also the current school records. Piazza has already enjoyed a successful career thanks to his obsession with the sport and men’s track head coach Jim Boulanger.
“I might be one example but there’s a lot of kids who work hard and get better just because Coach Boulanger allows them to,” Piazza said of his coach.
Piazza takes great pride in being a walk-on to the team his freshman year. He had dreams of competing in some type of sport at the Division I level in college. After not getting the looks he wanted from Division I soccer programs, he decided to properly invest his time and effort into track after he decided to attend UNH.
Piazza quit his club soccer team and committed himself to track, which he had participated in since sophomore year, but only to help train for soccer. He saw his times drop significantly his senior year after he knew he was going to UNH, but with the recruiting process well behind him, he decided he would try and walk on to the UNH team.
“When I first met him he had a good personality, was a good physical specimen, and I was like, ‘yeah, come on out for the team,’” Boulanger said.
Piazza met Boulanger the summer of his freshman year at UNH, and despite having never ran cross country or done any summer training, he told Boulanger he wanted to come out for the team in order to better himself for track and field.
“You want to do better and improve as a walk on and prove some people wrong,” Piazza said. His motivation didn’t stop once he made it to a Division I team. After a redshirt freshman cross-country season, he started to build a solid foundation in track and field. After securing the school record in the 800-meter race last spring, he missed going to the NCAA Championship meet by one spot after being listed 17th in the nation due to some runners ahead of him choosing other events to compete in.
Piazza did not let the disappointment interfere with his work-hard attitude. His mind immediately went to the BU Terrier Classic Invitational he knew he would run the following January. Piazza credits the long term mental preparation to his success with breaking his own 800-meter record that very meet, setting himself up for an impressive national ranking.
“I think the biggest difference is me spending time out of the field house and doing my own thing. I watch a lot of racing videos. I’ve watched the Olympic 800-meter race finals in London with David Rudisha breaking the world record at least one hundred times,” Piazza said, his focus now including mental preparation.
Piazza’s obsession with running paired with Boulanger’s coaching has paid off so far, especially considering the fact that he is beating athletes who were heavily recruited from high school.
Piazza currently sees himself focusing on the 800-meter race in the near future while using other events such as the 1,000-meter race to help lower his time.
Piazza is confident he is going to the NCAA Championships at the end of this winter for indoor track. With the nation’s sixth-fastest time, Piazza should have enough of a cushion to make the top 16 and earn the chance to compete in the event. Once there, his goal is a top five finish.
“Telling yourself that every day so you know it’s going to happen is so important,” Piazza said.
No matter how the indoor season and the NCAA meet goes, Piazza is already setting his sights on improving during the outdoor season. He said that his goal is to finish the outdoor season with a time in the 1:46 range and to qualify for the Olympics trials—even if it’s only in the B bracket. Once there, his focus will turn to running the most tactical race that he can and enjoying the race
Only a junior, Piazza also expects to take on a larger role on the cross-country team next fall, where he is expected to score for the team. Setting a solid foundation in the fall like he always has will be crucial if he is to improve upon his track times next year.
Piazza and the men’s and women’s track and field teams will compete this weekend at the America East Conference Championships in New York. For Piazza and UNH’s other elite athletes, the season will continue until March 11, when the NCAA Championships begin in Birmingham, Alabama.