By Doug Haidet, T-G Sport Editor. Used with permission from Doug Haidet and the Ashland Times-Gazette
7/21/15 -- It didn't take long for Drew Windle to find his professional landing spot.
The former eight-time NCAA Division II national champion -- who won his sixth title in the 800-meter run this spring -- announced late last week that he is beginning his pro career with Brooks Running as part of its elite Brooks Beasts Track Club mid-distance group.
One of the country's leaders in performance running gear, Brooks began the club three years ago and it quickly has become one of the most well-known running groups in the nation.
Specifically in the 800, the Brooks Beasts already feature two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds, as well as Casimir Loxsom -- two runners who recently placed first and third, respectively, at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships. Both will compete in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Beijing next month.
"It was a really easy decision for me," said Windle, who will continue to train near Columbus until moving in October to the brand-new Brooks headquarters in Seattle, Washington, where he will begin full-time training with the Beasts (they use the track at the University of Washington). "When the group started three years ago, it was a group that I was really interested in and I just thought, if I have the ability to go professional and join a team, this is the team that I want to join."
"To be an 800 runner going into a program that's already sending athletes to world championships," he said, "it's a good place to be."
Windle is the fifth athlete to train under Ashland track and field head coach Jud Logan who currently is signed to a pro contract. The others include three-time Olympic hammer thrower A.G. Kruger, Olympic hammer thrower and AU national champion Kibwe Johnson, three-time AU national champion shot putter Kurt Roberts and two-time AU national champion pole vaulter Katie Nageotte.
"Drew was entertaining a number of offers; I think he got the one at the top of his list," Logan said. "Although there are a number of good ones, (the Brooks Beasts are) a hotbed of middle distance."
Windle, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday Wednesday, is right on pace for what he hoped his post-collegiate career would be. He has an agent -- Dan Lilot, based in California -- and now is locked in to perform as one of just 14 current Brooks Beasts at least through the 2016 Olympic training period.
"It's a mixture of men and women and they range from anywhere (in events) from the 800 to the 5K, so it's a pretty small group compared to other running groups out there," Windle said. "In a group like that, you want somebody at every level. I'll go in as a developmental athlete and hopefully good things come of that."
Windle, who said Symmonds is the "guru" of the 800 group, will train under former Eastern Illinois University runner and well-known coach Danny Mackey, who had been in touch with Windle since last November, before the star Eagle captured his final two NCAA Division II titles in the 800.
Windle knows he will be pushed to consistently be at his best in an environment that -- unlike the all-around college atmosphere -- is 100 percent focused on training to run.
"I'm actually really excited to be in a position where I'm not the top dog," said Windle, whose clocking of 1:46.52 on Feb. 14, 2014, at Grand Valley State was the fastest indoor 800 ever recorded by a Division II athlete by almost a full second. "... I'm sure it will be hard at times to remain confident while you're kind of getting your (butt) kicked every single day, but it's all for the better."
Windle's most recent performance came in June at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, where his 28th-place 1:50:53 wasn't good enough to advance him beyond the 800 prelims one year after he made the semifinals in the same event.
He said that outing was a letdown, but added that nearly a full year of training for collegiate cross country, indoor track and outdoor track finally wore him down.
His first pro race with the Beasts likely will be during the next indoor track season.
"I feel like consistent training is one of the most important things you can get to bring you to success," Windle said. "... Part of that is not having coaching changes and being under the same program for a big block of years and big blocks of training, because the coach has a plan and goals for you, just as much as you do for yourself.
"It helps with the big picture if you can just stay on that same plan, so ideally I'll have my entire career there. Now I'm everywhere I want to be and I'm really excited about it."