Classwork first, athletics second, a winner at both
September 20, 2017 / by Damian Cristodero
There are several reasons John Seals speaks highly of his time at George Mason University: his instructors in the Volgenau School of Engineering, the manageable class sizes and his exposure to students of different ethnicities and backgrounds.
There also is the university’s sensible mingling of academics and athletics.
“When I came here one of the first things I heard was that you are a student-athlete,” the senior civil engineering and infrastructure major said of the message from men’s track and field coach Andrew Gerard. “That really helped me to always be focused on school first rather than athletics.”
Success has come in both arenas.
A multi-event athlete for the university’s indoor and outdoor track teams, Seals has won six individual Atlantic 10 Conference titles, including the 2017 indoor heptathlon in which he set a conference and university record of 5,770 points and qualified for the NCAA Division I championship meet. He finished 14th at nationals and was named to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-America Second Team.
Seals was George Mason’s first indoor championship qualifier since Mandissa Marshall in 2014 in the pole vault. The last men’s indoor qualifier was sprinter David Verburg in 2013, three years before he won an Olympic gold medal for the United States.
Seals also was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team, just the 11th Mason student since 1990 to be named to the team, which is voted on by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America and is the only academic All-America designation recognized by the NCAA.
To be eligible, students must maintain a cumulative 3.30 GPA. Seals, a five-time Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection and two-time member of the conference’s All-Academic team, had a 3.67 GPA as a junior.
“I’ve always been interested in it,” Seals said of civil engineering. “My dad was a civil engineer, and I like the problem-solving aspect of it.”
“I have always found John to be hard working and very good at balancing his athletic schedule and academic load in my class,” associate professor Laura Kosoglu said, adding that Seals is an engaged and attentive student.
Seals maintains a similar attention to detail with his athletics. That is key when competing in the heptathlon, a seven-event competition that includes the 60-meter dash, 60 hurdles, 1,000-meter run, long jump, pole vault, high jump and shot put.
The Woodbridge, Va., native not only won the overall heptathlon title at the Atlantic 10 indoor championships, but also the 60-meter dash, 60 hurdles, long jump, high jump and pole vault to help Mason earn the overall conference title. For that, Seals was named the Atlantic 10’s Most Outstanding Field Performer.
“I like being busy at meets, and I like the versatility,” Seals said of the heptathlon. “You practice each event like it’s the only event you do and then you move on to the next one.”
“He doesn’t get too flustered, and he brings some intensity when he needs to,” Coach Gerard said. “He’s very detail oriented. Being an engineer, he pays attention to the mechanics of what he’s doing.”