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Brown alums with Olympics aspirations shift sights to 2021

Bears share athletic journeys, thoughts on Olympic postponement

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

From clockwise left: Jordan Mann ’15, Anders Weiss ’15, and Alex Milkasevich ’19.

For three Brown alums, the Olympics had never been closer to reality — until the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on their long-awaited dreams. On March 24, it was announced that the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, had been delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic. Despite the postponement, Jordan Mann ’15, Anders Weiss ’15 and Alex Miklasevich ’19 remain focused on competing in the Olympics. These athletes detailed their paths to the brink of Olympic qualification and their thoughts on the delay in interviews with The Herald.

Jordan Mann ’15: From walk-on to Olympic prospect

Mann started running competitively in seventh grade after playing multiple sports growing up. “At that point in my life, you would never have been able to predict that I had any shot of making the Olympics,” Mann said. Although he showed promise in track and field before entering high school, there were not many elite programs available to Mann to help him develop as a runner. This changed in high school, when Mann ran for Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School in St. Louis, Missouri. According to Mann, the positive team culture at MICDS helped him to grow on and off the track. “We used running as an avenue to become better people, not just better athletes,” Mann said.

Despite developing into an All-State contender, Mann was not recruited to compete in Division I athletics at Brown. “It was kind of this thing I was going to do for fun,” he said. 

Upon arriving at Brown as a first-year, Mann walked onto the track and field team, where he was met with the rigor of intense practice hours and tough competition. Mann dealt with injuries but persevered and learned how to train and compete at a high level while maintaining his physical health, he said. In his junior year, he captured second place at the 2014 Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in the 3000-meter run. Mann was seeded in the second-tier heat, but broke his personal record with a time of 8 minutes, 19.6 seconds, which placed him above the elite runners in the first heat. This result was followed by a sixth-place finish at the 2014 Ivy League Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the same event. During his senior season, Mann captured third place at the 2015 Ivy League Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 5000-meter run.

Due to injuries during his rookie year, he had another year of athletic eligibility remaining and was recruited by top running programs all over the country. Mann chose to stay in Providence and compete with one of the country’s most successful coaches, Ray Treacy, at Providence College. Treacy has coached 65 All-Americans, 7 NCAA champions and 11 Olympians as of today. 

At Providence College, Mann’s running flourished. He qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase, where he placed 16th and earned Second Team All-American honors. “After that fifth year, I wondered: why don’t I just keep running? Why don’t I just try and make the next Olympic trials in 2020?” Mann said.

In 2017, Mann flew to Ireland for the Letterkenny International Track and Field race, where he competed against a daunting field of world class athletes. Mann won the 3000-meter steeplechase with a personal best time of 8 minutes, 36 seconds. “One of the things that is important to remember is that big jumps do not happen all of the time,” he said. “They happen sometimes, but not all of the time.”

Des Moines, Iowa was the site of another big jump for Mann. He finished fifth in the steeplechase at the 2018 United States Track and Field Outdoor Championships. “The cool thing about progress is that I can see it and feel it. And when I am in a race, there is a chance to demonstrate it.”

Following his season with Providence College, Mann continues to live and train in Providence. The outbreak of COVID-19 took away his immediate competitive opportunities but also provided an opportunity for him to rest. As an elite runner, Mann consistently puts in 100-mile training weeks and his intense regimen often results in a “state of perpetual soreness.” Mann took two weeks off from running to physically and mentally reset for the uncertain amount of time before his next race.

“I didn’t have Olympic dreams at age 16, I didn’t have Olympic dreams at age 21 … I didn’t have Olympic dreams until now,” Mann said. He hopes to use the additional year of training before the 2021 Olympics to further improve his chances of qualification and success at the Games.

Anders Weiss ’15 eyes second Olympic bid

Weiss grew up in Barrington, Rhode Island and picked up rowing as a sophomore in high school. His older sister had walked onto the crew team at Brown, and would help the Bears win the 2011 Division I Rowing Championship. Weiss played other sports at Barrington High School and did not turn the majority of his attention to rowing until his junior year. Despite his late start in the sport, Weiss quickly improved under Coach Peter Wilhelm at Narragansett Boat Club before coming to Brown.

When it came time for Weiss to choose a college, he gravitated towards the Brown rowing program led by Coach Paul Cooke ’89. “The program spoke to me personally. You never have a spot set for you and you always have to prove yourself,” Weiss said.

By his sophomore year, he was part of the varsity eight that captured a third place finish at the 2013 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship and he earned Second Team All-Ivy honors.

That summer, Weiss had a breakthrough performance at the U23 World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria. He captured the silver medal and realized that he might be able to compete at a higher level. “I did not start thinking about the Olympics until this race,” Weiss said.

In his junior year, Weiss notched a second-place finish at the IRA National Championships and reclaimed Second Team All-Ivy honors. He continued to improve on the water and graduated from Brown in 2015. 

The next year, Weiss had another breakthrough — a chance to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Throughout his first year on the United States National Team, Weiss competed against his teammates for a spot in the boat that would row in the Olympic Games. Weiss’ elite performance earned him a spot with Nareg Guregian for the coxless pair event. “It was pretty surreal to represent the United States of America,” Weiss said. At the games, Weiss and Guregian finished in 11th place.

After the Olympics, Weiss continued training in Oakland, California at the National Team Training Center. The coaches in Oakland encouraged the athletes to find non-athletic jobs on the side to balance their rowing careers, so Weiss worked as an analyst for Boston Meridian Partners. The outbreak of COVID-19 presented a disappointing pause in Weiss’ training regimen as a 2020 Olympic hopeful. “The last thing I wanted to do was take time off,” said Weiss. He originally was training with a small group of athletes until the spread of the pandemic sent the rowers home to their families. Before leaving Oakland, Weiss established a training program with his teammates to keep them motivated during the time of uncertainty.

Home with family in Rhode Island, Weiss has resumed his training while maintaining by using his rowing machine. “It’s back to business as usual,” he said. “We know other countries and other athletes are still training. The postponement of the Olympics was demoralizing, but we are back to the grind.”

Alex Miklasevich ’19 shoots for upcoming Olympic Games

Miklasevich played multiple sports before entering Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His older brother had rowed in high school, and the younger Miklasevich was sought out after the coach saw his 6’7” frame. As a freshman, Miklasevich began rowing for the team and never looked back. “I spent most of my high school years rowing, going to practice at school and rowing as much as I could,” he said. 

Throughout high school, he improved rapidly while working with Coach Jay Hammond, who rowed at Harvard University before rowing for Oxford in the historic Oxford-Cambridge annual matchup dubbed The Boat Race. Hammond’s expertise coupled with his emphasis on high academic excellence propelled Miklasevich to take his rowing to the collegiate level at Brown.

During his first year at Brown, Miklasevich rowed in the varsity boat that finished sixth in the Grand Finals at the IRA National Championships, along with capturing the bronze medal at Eastern Sprints. While rowing for Coach Cooke, Miklasevich grew in the classroom and on the water. “Coach Cooke taught us a lot of lessons. The greatest lesson is that you have to compete with your teammates every single day,” Miklasevich said.

During his senior year, Miklasevich won the Petit Final at the IRA National Championship. He also captured a third place finish at the Head of the Charles Regatta. After graduating in 2019, Miklasevich spent one year at the National Team Training Center in Oakland, California and trained alongside Weiss. The two Brown alums were roommates during a training camp held in Chula Vista, California. Like Weiss, Miklasevich worked a non-athletic job as a business development representative at Custom Social.

Miklasevich maintains a positive attitude amidst the Olympic delay. Like Weiss, he owns a rowing machine and has continued training while at home. As a rookie at the National Team Training Center, Miklasevich was comfortable taking his training slowly and embraced the opportunity to spend additional time growing stronger and improving his skills. “I am thankful that I am able to keep working remotely and train,” he said. “The Olympic postponement is definitely frustrating. But I think gaining more experience can only be a good thing for a younger rower like me.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that during his sophomore season, Mann captured second place at the 2014 Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in the 3000-meter run and placed sixth at the 2014 Ivy League Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the same event. In fact, Mann earned these results during his junior season. The Herald regrets the error. 

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