LEWISTON, Idaho – For Lewis-Clark State College senior Nolan Ryan, finding the right college fit has made all the difference in the world.
Ryan, who is from the St. Louis area, transferred to LCSC after his freshman year at Missouri Valley College where he competed in cross country and track. A coaching change at his previous school, along with other factors, made a change in scenery necessary, and it didn’t take long at LCSC before he realized he had been short-changing himself, both academically and athletically.
Now, three years after transferring, Ryan is the top runner for the LCSC men’s cross country team and is on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in communications. He’s hoping to go on to graduate school in a leadership program.
“LCSC gave me a chance,” Ryan said. “I struggled with academic stuff at my first school.”
Ryan said Warrior cross country and track coach Mike Collins offered him a small scholarship to come to Lewiston, but Collins also emphasized that Ryan needed to dedicate himself to the classroom as well.
“He took a chance on me when a couple of other schools said no because of my academic situation,” Ryan said. “I had never visited the school and I had never been to the Pacific Northwest. But when I got here, I loved it right away.”
The first year was a success. In track, he earned NAIA All America honors with an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run at the national indoor meet. In the classroom, he began to blossom as well.
“It’s just how LCSC’s educational system is set up because it helped me out and made me really focus on school for the first time,” he said. “Coach Collins pushed me. He was like the first person in my life to really push home how important grades are, and that was probably the first time I studied on my own and my grades showed that.
“It was the first time in class and in running that I had developed a work ethic. Being here made me realize that if I wanted to do something, I could do something pretty special. It opened my eyes to what I could achieve and made me realize I could have this appreciation for Lewiston, the college, and coach Collins. I don’t know if I could have accomplished what I did at that time if I was somewhere else. I needed a place like this to help me.”
Ryan says the interaction with professors and the small class sizes have been instrumental in his personal growth.
“The professors are really special,” he said. “They really care here. I think it’s safe to say a majority of my professors can answer what my focus area is and what I plan to do after college. They care. They ask me what am I trying to do or what do I hope to accomplish in this class, and then what do I want to do with my degree.
“And then they know me by name and some even know where I am from. Just from the classroom. It makes you appreciate the relationships. I’ve had some professors in 6-7 classes so far and I know the relationship is going to last longer than just my tenure here.”
Ryan said the other thing that makes LCSC unique is the community support LCSC receives.
“I know obviously there is a big university in every state that has a lot of support, but I was thinking before I came here that it’s a small school with probably not much support or community interaction,” he said. “I quickly realized there is a lot of support, not only with athletics, but with the school in general. I see stickers and banners everywhere. That’s one of the first things that stuck out to me when I got here, the support for the school in this valley. I didn’t anticipate that.”
Ryan also has a strong support system in place with his teammates. He lives with four runners from the cross country and track programs, and said he’s made several friendships that he believes he’ll carry with him long after his college days. He said he regularly talks to teammates from three years ago, and he went to a wedding this summer between two former LCSC runners. Several former and current LCSC runners were there as well.
“It just made me appreciate the relationships I have made here,” he said.
Ryan won his first meet of the season this year and hopes to help LCSC claim its third consecutive Frontier Conference cross country title. The team also has placed in the top 10 at the national meet four consecutive years, and Ryan would like to see the team earn medals with a top-four finish. Personally, he would like to finish in the top 30 at the national meet, which would earn him his first All-American status in the sport to go along with his two he has earned in track.
Ryan said he would like to be a graduate assistant coach with a cross country and track program while he works on his Master’s degree. He said he would like to get into coaching and possibly athletic administration after graduate school, although he also has a passion for sports broadcasting.
“It’s crazy to look back and see how everything added up to my time right now,” Ryan said. “I wouldn’t be where I am at without LCSC and all the support I have received here.”