Typically, college is a time for young people to move far away from their hometowns, or at least far enough away to be considered “on their own.”
For Texas A&M runners Kelsie Warren, Jon Bishop and Zephyr Seagraves, that’s not exactly the case.
After attending College Station High School together, the trio traded in their Cougar purple for Aggie maroon just six-and-a-half miles down Wellborn Road.
For Warren and Seagraves, the maroon blood runs deep.
Both of Warren’s parents are from the area. Her mom attended A&M Consolidated and her dad Bryan High, though they didn’t meet until their time at A&M.
Seagraves’ parents are both interdisciplinary studies majors from A&M, but they met teaching at local elementary schools.
Bishop, on the other hand, wasn’t introduced to A&M until his freshman year of high school. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Bishop and his family moved to College Station when his dad was hired as a geography professor at A&M.
During his first few years in Aggieland, Bishop attended A&M football games with some friends of his dad’s, but he said he never felt drawn to the school.
“I didn’t really have an adamant desire to go to college here until my senior year of high school,” Bishop said. “I was running and getting recruited, and [distance] coach [Wendel] McRaven from A&M was one of the coaches recruiting me. I’m right in the backyard.”
Throughout the recruiting process, Bishop debated choosing Texas over A&M. His official visit changed his mind.
“That was the last visit I took to any school,” Bishop said. “I guess it was a powerful impression because it just left me wanting to go there. I remember weighing all of the options and just knowing in my gut that A&M would be the best decision for me.”
For Bishop, the turning point in his decision was simply the Aggie Spirit.
“Everyone I did meet on that visit, they seemed to care,” Bishop said. “They had that spirit that Aggies have. Very social, they just care and they want to know about you, they want to help you. All of the people in the athletic department were like that.”
It was Seagraves’ connection to Bishop that was the icing on the cake in his decision to stay local.
“It’s been great having him as a role model,” Seagraves said. “I was really glad he chose A&M, and I knew that I’d be trying to follow him there and get to continue training with him.”
But even before Bishop made his choice, there was a good chance Seagraves would end up at A&M regardless.
Seagraves considered going to Air Force Academy, which also showed interest in him, but he said even if he hadn’t been recruited by McRaven, he probably would have still picked the maroon and white.
“[Throughout high school] I was trying to make sure I was good enough to make the A&M team,” Seagraves said. “Whatever I was playing growing up, I wanted to do it in maroon and white.”
Warren said she also knew from a young age that A&M was the place for her.
“Little Kelsie always wanted to go here,” Warren said. “When it came down to choosing the right academic fit and the place that I really truly did call home, I couldn’t see myself anywhere but A&M.”
Warren’s final decision came down to A&M and Arkansas, and while it wasn’t exactly A&M’s proximity to home that sealed the deal for Warren, she knew Arkansas was too far from her parents.
“I didn’t want to be six, seven hours away from my parents,” Warren said. “It’s not necessarily that I wanted to be 15 minutes away like I am in College Station. I did want a little bit of separation, but I didn’t necessarily want the six hours.”
It is that proximity to home that has made his choice to stay in College Station so rewarding, Seagraves said.
“About every other week during the semester I’ll be able to go home and have dinner with my family,” Seagraves said. “When I have time, I’m able to go to my little sister’s soccer games or cross country meets. It’s nice to be able to be in town still and be able to get to see them.”
While Warren is still in the town she grew up in, she said she has been able to make Aggieland her own since coming to A&M.
“You can make it as close to home or as far away as possible,” Warren said. “My experiences with college were completely new experiences than I ever got in high school, even though I was living in the same town.”
The Aggie experience
While Warren’s decision to follow in her parents’ footsteps and attend A&M came easily, her five years here have not been so.
Warren experienced an injury her freshman year that forced her to redshirt. Going into an Oct. 2, 2015, invitational at Notre Dame, Warren unknowingly had stress fractures in the tibia and fibula in her right leg due to overtraining and a Vitamin D deficiency. During the race, the bones fully fractured.
Upon returning to campus, she had to be completely non-weight-bearing in her right leg, which Warren said was its own challenge.
“Going around A&M on crutches — nightmare,” Warren said.
Warren wasn’t able to do any cardio until after Christmas of that year, instead spending time with athletic trainers and in the weight room strengthening the muscles surrounding the injured bones. When she was finally able to run again, it was only in small increments.
“I was allowed to run five minutes for two days and then the third day I’d have to take an off day,” Warren said. “Then we were able to increase it to 10 minutes, then on the third day, take an off day. It was just a slow buildup to finally be at 100 percent.”
By the time she was finally healthy, the outdoor track season was almost over.
But it wasn’t much easier from there. During the 2017 indoor season, Warren had a stress reaction in her left leg, again from overtraining, then another stress fracture during the 2018 indoor season.
“It got to the point where I was scared once I was finally healthy again,” Warren said. “It was a fear of, ‘Great, now I’m healthy. When is my body eventually going to fail on me again?’”
More difficult to overcome than the injury was the fear, Warren said.
“I was always a positive-focused person, but sometimes you let those negative thoughts creep in, where you had doubt, not really in your training, but in your body failing you again,” Warren said. “That was a harder thing to overcome.”
She began to work with sports psychologists and her coaches to find a training program that she wouldn’t be able to overtrain on.
“Working with them, I could have a nice balance of my body being able to recover itself but also pushing it to a threshold where you’re still seeing competitive results in training,” Warren said. “Once I found that middle ground, it helped bring back up that confidence level.”
It worked. In 2019, Warren qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships for the first time in her career, after also placing 11th at the SEC Championship meet and earning All-SEC Second Team honors. She is also on A&M’s All-Time Top-12 Performer list in six different events.
Kelsie Warren runs career best 9:35.53 to place fifth in the SEC Indoor 3,000m, improving her time as No. 9 performer on Aggie all-time list. Ashley Driscoll clocks 9:50.64 to place 15th overall.— Texas A&M Track and Field (@aggietrk) February 23, 2019
For Bishop and Seagraves, their college careers wouldn’t be the same without each other.
The two have raced together since Seagraves’ freshman year of high school, and quote a saying from their high school coach Rodney Wellmann as the reason behind their passion for the sport.
“Coach Wellmann’s quote, ‘The stopwatch doesn’t lie’ is probably my favorite thing about running, how it is so much more objective than other sports,” Seagraves said. “Whoever crosses the line first wins.”
Bishop had seen the subjectivity of other sports first-hand during his time playing basketball when he felt he didn’t get the playing time he deserved.
“Running is not like that, it’s very objective,” Bishop said. “If you beat somebody, you beat them. If you run a faster time, the stopwatch doesn’t lie.”
Throughout their time racing together, a fierce competitiveness has developed. It came to a head after Bishop’s graduation when Seagraves beat one of his predecessor’s many College Station High School records: the 5K.
Both parties knew it was coming.
“A couple weeks before that I ran right on the nose of his time,” Seagraves said. “I was like .3 seconds off, which for a 15-minute race is nothing. I texted him and I was like, ‘I’m coming for that soon. Just let me have a race in good condition.’”
With a time of 15:30.48 at the 2016 state meet, Seagraves set the school record in the 5K race, good for fifth place. He said it was rewarding to top Bishop’s record.
“It was cool to see myself on that level with him because he was a year ahead of me and set a great standard for me to chase after,” Seagraves said. “My goal was also to run whatever he did the year before, just to keep up with him. That was the first time I was able to accomplish it.”
Bishop said Seagraves’ success was inevitable.
“It was bound to happen,” Bishop said. “Records are good and everything, but somebody’s going to break them. I was just happy for Zephyr. I knew he was going to get something because I know Zephyr.”
Though those moments don’t come very often, Seagraves said the competitiveness between the pair won’t go away any time soon.
“I probably do a little more trash-talking than he does, even when he’s probably won 90-plus percent of the races we’ve done together,” Seagraves said. “I always talk about how I’m going to win the next one.”
Bishop said the competition with Seagraves has made him a better athlete.
“When you’re running with Zephyr, nothing is given to you,” Bishop said. “You have to earn everything because he’s going to go as hard as he can every single time.”
Home towns of top-6 in SEC men’s 3k...1. Griffith (Ark) Sydney, Australia2. T. George (Mizzou) Gloucester, England3. Bishop (Texas A&M) College Station, Texas4. Cheboson (Ark) Eldoret, Kenya5. Seagraves (Texas A&M) College Station, Texas6. Boit (Ark) Iten, Kenya #homegrown pic.twitter.com/ziLvzPCoQW— Wendel McRaven (@wmcraven) March 4, 2020
The results of that competitiveness were showcased at the SEC Indoor Championships in February.
Bishop hit a personal milestone, scoring as an individual in a conference championship meet for the first time in his collegiate career.
Going into the meet, he said his goal was simply to score points.
“I was like, ‘I know I’m good. How have I not scored at SEC Championships?’” Bishop said.
Though he accomplished that with an eighth place finish in the 5K on the first day of the meet, it didn’t feel quite like he had expected.
“I didn’t have my best race,” Bishop said. “I did what I could for the team, but I got eighth place so I got one point. I was like, ‘Well, at least I scored.’ But it wasn't what I thought it was going to be like.”
Bishop knew he had to move past it and focus on the 3K the next day. In that race, he placed third in 8:11.59, which he said was special considering his performance the day prior.
“At that point, I didn’t know I was going to be running another year,” Bishop said. “That was it, that was going to be my last indoor championship meet.”
Athletic achievement isn’t the only success the College Station High School trio have found in Aggieland.
All three are stars in the classroom as well, and all made the 2018 and 2019 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.
Bishop, an applied mathematics senior, was also named the SEC Indoor Track and Field Scholar of the Year in February and the SEC Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2018.
Bishop said as a student-athlete, the “student” part is as important as the “athlete.”
“Being an athlete wasn’t the only thing about it,” Bishop said. “I valued athletics a lot but at the same time, I wanted to get the most out of my experience, and to me that was also working on my academics. It means a lot to be recognized, especially at the SEC level.”
An aerospace engineering junior, Seagraves said his passion for science was something he developed at an early age.
“Growing up I’d always get those little science kits of doing a little circuit and making a lightbulb, so I’d always been into building and tinkering,” Seagraves said.
As for choosing the aerospace concentration, Seagraves said it came down to a saying among engineers.
“One of the common jokes is that aerospace engineers make weapons and civil engineers make targets,” Seagraves said. “I wanted to be on the exciting side of that.”
Warren is also in the College of Engineering, and graduated on May 8 with a degree in industrial distribution. She will be going into a sales leadership development program, where she will work through distribution channels and eventually move into management.
When the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of the outdoor season, that was it for Warren and Bishop, who were in their last years of eligibility.
However, on March 30, the NCAA announced a plan for eligibility relief for seniors.
Due to begin a job at the end of the year, Bishop initially had no plans to return. But the start of his job got pushed back a year, and he was left wondering what to do next.
“I’ve got to find something to do in that time, so am I going to find another job given how the economy is? Probably not,” Bishop said.
Once that happened, other things began to fall in line for Bishop, including A&M’s decision to provide the extra eligibility to its affected seniors.
“That was another thing that had to go my way for this all to happen, and it did, so I’m just really thankful to be at A&M,” Bishop said. “Once all of the things aligned like that, it was really a no-brainer.”
Bishop then decided to further his education and will pursue a master's degree in computer science.
“I can open up even more opportunities with the program that I’m going to be in,” Bishop said. “I can do what I love and run outdoor track next year and still be on a team with people that I love around coaches that are great.”
While Bishop will be back, Warren will forgo the extra year of eligibility.
She said the decision comes down to something track and field head coach Pat Henry said to her during her recruitment.
“He said to me, ‘Most people aren’t going to become a professional runner.’ The ultimate goal is to get a degree and a job whenever you graduate,” Warren said. “I have loved my experience with A&M and I wish I could have had this season, but at the same time, how much of your life can you put on hold?
“In no way, shape or form do I plan to stop running, but it’s time for that to look a little different.”