JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - For UNF senior Will Pearce his focused has not centered on his upcoming competition at the 2011 Atlantic Sun Men’s Track & Field Championships, but rather on impressing interviewees at prospective medical schools.
Pearce, a biology major with a 3.9 grade-point average, only recently learned he had been accepted to the University of South Florida’s medical school, home to one of the nation’s top neurosurgery departments in the country.
“I heard I was getting into medical school [on Feb. 9] and it was such a relief of my shoulders,” he said. “All summer it was hard to focus - I had to run by myself because I was studying for the M-CAT all day and all night. All during cross country I was…busy with applications and now I’ve been busy with interviews through the winter – I’ve still got a couple coming up – but to hear that I’m in at a good school, USF is ranked very highly for what I want to do, it’s takes a monster weight off my chest.”
Nine days after learning of his acceptance to USF, Pearce tracked down USC Upstate’s Gilbert Kemboi - the A-Sun’s defending champion and record holder of the 3000-meter run - in the final backstretch to claim his first individual indoor gold medal. Less than two hours later, Pearce anchored UNF’s Distance Medley Relay team to a win.
Pearce - a mile runner by trade - had twice finished third in his specialty event at prior Indoor Championships. Trailing Kemboi throughout the 3000-meter run, Pearce cut the margin to a single stride in the closing laps. He overtook the reigning champion on the backstretch then used a strong kick to claim the win. In the process, he narrowly missed erasing Kemboi from the record book, finishing less than seven-tenths of a second off the Spartan’s record pace of a season ago.
“Will is on a high right now,” UNF head coach Mark VanAlstyne said. “He came in with some pretty big expectations and so far he has lived up to them and don’t count him out of anything [Saturday]. He’s a competitor to the bone and I’m going to be really sad when he’s gone.”
Pearce’s journey to the winner’s circle began after leaving Florida. He became a Gator as a preferred walk-on, but left the program for UNF after getting caught up in a numbers game at Florida. His family, devout Gator fans who had taken Will to countless football games at “The Swamp” struggled to see their son leave the program.
“I was still pretty upset about leaving,” Pearce said. “Until I starting being their runners.”
While Pearce already has his acceptance to USF, among the schools he could still enroll at includes Florida, a return he would welcome, as he still has many friends in Gainesville.