Majoring in sustainable community development
Competing in cross country
Has dual citizenship having lived in Tijuana, Baja, California, Mexico, as a preschooler/ kindergartener, then San Diego, California, most recently.
Q. You have been named the NC Beast. Why?
A. This last summer, I stumbled upon a YouTube sensation called LA Beast, who films himself attempting inhuman eating challenges, and consuming ungodly amounts of food. He makes popular eating challenges look like jokes, and he completes them with ease. LA Beast has to make his own challenges, or supersize the mainstream challenges. I find him to be a huge inspiration because he has a similar story as me, having to gain weight as an athlete. Today he is one of the world’s top competitive eaters. It is the “mind over matter” mentality that inspires me so much to eat even when I am not hungry. I myself have shared his videos with friends, and the cross country team occasionally addresses me as the “NC Beast.” At my first college cross country meet, multiple people actually yelled “GO BEAST!” I love my team.
Q. I hear you’ve progressed to second runner in a few short months: Have you always been a runner? When did you get interested?
A. I began taking an interest in sports in fifth grade, which was the first year that I got into competitive swimming. I swam every day until the end of eighth grade. From this period of time, I went from being a chubby fifth grader with asthma to a Junior Olympic swimmer. During the summer before my freshman year of high school, I played water polo just for fun. I liked it, but it was only a summer activity. Freshman year began and I was introduced to Jim Vance, the coach of the triathlon team called TriJuniors. I left competitive swimming and began doing triathlons. I realized that my swimming skills were far better than the average triathlete, but my cycling was horrible and my running was just as bad. I would go to triathlon practices year-round and swim for my high school swimming team. I only ran cross country during my junior year of high school, and I ran junior varsity. By this point, running had become my Achilles heel in triathlons. My biking and swimming were what made me competitive.
Fast-forward to the summer of my high school senior year. I am talking with [Orientation Coordinator] Lucas Will, who tells me that the first Outdoor Orientation trip sessions are for athletes only. I emailed the cross country coach immediately. Peter Macky said, “We’d like to have you on the team… Make sure you get up to fifty miles a week to prepare for pre-season. I started running. A lot. On weekends I ran miles at the beach. When I would not run, I would go on sixty-mile bike rides. The hard work pays off. That’s what I learned this summer: The only easy day was yesterday.
Q. Why did you choose Northland College?
A. “The Internet,” is the answer I have given innumerable times when the other students ask me how I even heard of Northland College. They wonder how a California dude heard of a tiny six-hundred-student college in Ashland, Wisconsin. I didn’t. I researched it on the Internet.
During the summer of junior year at Saint Augustine High School in San Diego, California, I realized that I needed to determine what I would want to study. I knew I wanted to study environmental science. I looked up “top ten environmental science programs in the US” on Google Search, and I clicked on the first result on the Mother Nature Network article.
I was then faced with a difficult decision, to choose between the seven schools I had been accepted to. For all I knew, the college could have been a figment of my imagination, or even a complete lie. But in my heart, I knew Northland was real, very real. I knew that all paths had their own validity, merits, rewards, and so on. I thought Northland just seemed perfectly fitting for me as time went on.
I ultimately chose Northland because I knew from having talked with counselors and students on the phone that Northland was a place where one could easily experience education. I was told about the Outdoor Orientation, Connections courses, and an amazing student body combined with great teachers (coaches)… I knew that the one way to describe the people here was “passionate.”
There were only two weeks left before the deadline, and Northland sent me a postcard. “This could be you. Enroll today.” This was the text written on top of a picture of two students kayaking on Lake Superior. I knew in that moment that I simply needed to commit. I paid my enrollment deposit. It was official… Alec Z Drachenberg was to soon become a Northland College LumberJack.
Q. What’s your best event?
A. My best event is a sprint triathlon: 800-meter swim, 25-kilometer bike, and a 5K run. In swimming, I swim the 50, 100, and 200-yard breaststroke events. In cross country, my only event is the 8K.
Q. How does running in Lake Superior Country vs. California compare?
A. Running in the California heat is not a lot of fun, but it is so beautiful to have the ocean ten minutes away from my home. Lake Superior is far more interesting because we actually have weather here. No day is the same, and running is so much more fun with the team. In weeks, I have progressed far more as a runner than I had in many years.
I have been happy as a member of such a fun team, and I have been performing better than ever. What makes the pain all worth it, is the people. The five-hour bus trips are actually so fun because I like my friends, my teammates. We are a close family. I love them. The best part is that the team has grown, both in size and in bond. I am glad that I joined, and it probably has been one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far in my freshman year at Northland College.
Q. Thoughts on your first months?
A. Overall, having not visited campus before coming to the Midwest for the first time, was exciting. I knew, however, that I was taking a huge risk. I did not know if all my expectations and hopes would play out the way I imagined them. I can easily say that all of these expectations have been exceeded. I feel honored every day to be here. It is such a huge privilege, to be in the presence of excellence. I wake up every day and feel deeply, passionate about life. As I commence every new day I look around and I see potential everywhere, and sometimes I look at certain people and know that they aspire to do great things. I myself aspire to be the greatest I can be. The professors, coaches, students, and staff are all part of a great community, one that I call family.