This new column will highlight a different student-athlete each week, striving to unearth what the hectic life of a Brandeis athlete entails. With this in mind, such a collection of stories will serve as a testament to the hard work, passion and resilience that athletes at Brandeis specifically embody, hopefully working to bridge the gap between student-athletes and the rest of the Brandeisian community.
It’s early Tuesday morning and distance runner Josh Lombardo ’21 is up at 7:30 a.m. to begin his day. He always starts his day with oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas for breakfast and is out the door and in the library by 9 a.m. to get a jumpstart on studying and homework before class. After he finishes his classes for the day, Lombardo is off to Gosman for his 3:30 p.m. practice with the rest of the cross country team.
Lombardo initially chose to run for Brandeis because he liked the atmosphere during his visit and how everyone was consistently driven, he told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview. “They all seemed like people like me that were devoted to the sport and quirky in ways where I could express myself.”
With Brandeis as an extremely academically driven university, Lombardo uses running as an escape from academics. “It’s a chance to cross the bridge from the main campus and get away from it all and be with people who have the same goal,” he said. “It’s a chance to go run outside in nature and think about anything except academics.”
After practice, he and his teammates head to Sherman for dinner. Then it’s back to the library for the rest of the night to study.
As a Health: Science, Society and Policy major and psychology minor, Lombardo has noticed that a lot of his teammates, and other athletes, share a lot of classes with him and share similar struggles of balancing academics and sports.
“Having that break at practice is a good thing for my mental sanity to go from studying and that break,” he told The Hoot. “By the time I get back to the library, my brain is refreshed. It’s really on managing your time. You have to have self-discipline.”
The self-discipline is beyond just sleeping, eating and training, he explained. It’s also making sure that “all my runs are quality and that my body feels good each day translates back to the classroom.”
As for race days, Lombardo would pack his bag with his uniform and a specific pair of socks that he wears for each race. Race day begins like any other, with a breakfast of either oatmeal or pancakes with bananas. “I like to listen to a whole variety of music on the bus ride there,” Lombardo told The Hoot. “I like to keep to myself.”
He noted that the team, and their competitors, are a lot less serious when competing. “I just like that there is a sense of competition, but me, it feels less competitive and more casual,” he said. “I listen to a lot of music as I get ready to compete, and I’m just out there carefree, dancing around.”
The biggest transition for Lombardo from high school to college athletics was the time commitment. “It’s a lot harder than in high school,” he admitted. “It’s truly a sacrifice of your time. Some part of me wants to be involved in more, but I’m definitely happy that I’m on this team.”
Outside of track, Lombardo is involved in Cru Brandeis Christian Fellowship, a group where Christian students can grow in their faith and seek fellowship with one another, and volunteers with the Big Brother and Big Sister program at Stanley Elementary School.
“My faith is part of the reason I run,” Lombardo told The Hoot. “It’s my way of worshipping. That’s a major part of why I run. I’m grateful that God has given me this ability to run. But he’s instilled in me the enjoyment of the outdoors and nature. It’s my way of worshipping the way that he’s made me and the talents that he’s given me.”
Lombardo started running in sixth grade and decided to focus specifically on running when he went to high school. “I ran year round and developed a lot of friends from other schools,” he told The Hoot. “That community just grew, and I fell in love with running during my sophomore year [of high school]. I found it was a real way for me to express myself and my sense of being quirky.”
One of Lombardo’s defining characteristics on the team is his extensive collection of fun socks. He estimated that he had around 30 unique pairs, with one of his favorites being a pair of socks with unicorns and narwhals on them. Lombardo was initially drawn to socks from a local sock store in his hometown, Sock Shack. “Socks are just another way of expressing myself,” he told The Hoot.
One of his favorite memories of being an athlete since coming to Brandeis does in fact involve socks. Last season, Matthew Dribben ’22, another runner on the team had organized a plan for all the runners on their team to get socks with Jacob Judd’s ’19, M.A. ’20, another one of their teammates, face on them. This was inspired from a pair of socks that Lombardo owns that have his own face on a pair of socks.
“We all wore them at practice one day, and it took him 10 minutes to notice,” Lombardo explained. The team then all wore the socks during a banquet that they attended.