The life of a college athlete can be overwhelming as they balance school, athletics and work all at the same time. Fourth-year track and field captain Michael Lucas has added another component to an already busy schedule: training for the Navy SEALs.
In December, Lucas signed a provisional contract with the Navy SEALs that will send him to Basic Operating Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) in Coronado, Cali. A large basis of what got him a contract offer was his performance in his physical screening tests, known as PSTs, which are made up of a 500-yard swim, a one-and-a-half-mile run, pull-ups, sit-ups and pushups.
Lucas credits his track background for providing him with the skills needed to succeed in these PSTs. He has already earned his Black Shirt, an award for recording elite-level PST scores.
Part of Lucas’s contract requires that he perform monthly PSTs to ensure he’s keeping his fitness level up, which on occasion has forced him to alter his track training.
“I’ve had to strive to find a balance between my track training and the training I do now for the Navy,” Lucas said. “It wasn’t easy at first but a lot of the training overlaps, so that’s helpful.”
Head track and field Coach Mark Lech echoes this sentiment and realizes the extra effort that Lucas is putting forward to reach his dream.
“[When he has a PST] I’ll temper his workout. While the PST might not be event specific for what he’s training for in terms of track, he’s still taxing his body to a certain level, and I don’t want to send him over the edge,” Lech said.
Despite doing double duty training-wise, Lucas has enjoyed great success on the track this year and is peaking at just the right time with the America East Conference Championships starting Feb. 19 in New York City. Lucas has set personal bests in the 500-meter dash the last two consecutive meets while also holding down a key spot on the 4×400-meter relay team that remains undefeated on the season.
Lucas’s ability to maintain dedication to both his preparation for the military and the track and field team is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his coaches and teammates.
“Track and any other sport at this level is an immense time commitment towards self betterment, and by choosing to join the military Mike’s making that same commitment on a level that has a much more impactful purpose,” fourth-year co-captain and fellow relay team member Tyler Martin said. “Seeing that commitment makes you want to work harder every day.”
In his 28 years of collegiate coaching experience, Coach Lech can’t remember having another athlete take the road that Lucas is on, a testament to the difficulty of balancing both track and the military.
“I applaud Mike [Lucas] for it, we always find ways to do the things we want to do,” Lech said with a grin.
Joining the military is something Lucas has always had in the back of his mind.
“I have a military heritage in my family that I feel responsible to uphold,” Lucas said. “I didn’t just want to be another boot on the ground or find myself in an office working a ‘normal job.’”
Lucas has not only strived to join the military, but he’s attempting to join what many consider one of the toughest and most competitive branches, with only two out of every 10 candidates successfully completing the 18 months of training that are required to become a Navy SEAL.
Lucas seems to have a penchant for seeking out tough endeavors, as his main event in track, the 400-meter hurdles, is considered one of the most grueling events both physically and mentally. Lucas sees the parallels between this event and his training with the Navy.
“Track is a very mental sport; you need to be a strong-willed person to be a good track athlete. I chose to run a very tough event and through training for it I have gained physical and mental toughness that has helped me hit elite level scores in the PST,” Lucas said.
While he’s excited to begin the next stage of his life, for right now his focus remains on finishing out school and his track career.
“My top priority right now is to finish out both my track seasons. I’m taking one thing at a time while staying focused on the big picture.”
At the end of this month Lucas will be assuming the position of Special Warfare/Operations New England Candidate (SWONEC) Boat Crew Leader of Region 1 Tac-1. He’ll continue training for track through the outdoor season before shifting his focus fulltime to the Navy and leaving for boot camp July 11.