Manchester's McCarthy adjusts quickly at Malone
CANTON Adjusting to the higher level of competition in college can be difficult for athletes making the jump from high school.
The key for former Manchester standout Mackenzie McCarthy has been to simply go at her own pace. The Malone freshman distance runner has settled in quickly at the college level, including winning one of her first races at the recently started indoor track season.
"My first meet I ran my first indoor 5K and won my section," McCarthy said. "I also got a PR time of 18:26. I've found for me what works is going out at my pace and getting faster because in college there are definitely faster girls in your races, so it's about being controlled and not going out too fast."
After gaining valuable college running experience during the cross country season in the fall, McCarthy has continued her progress into the new year. She's experienced the same challenges and obstacles athletes at all levels have faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced changes to everything from training to if and how games, meets, matches and tournaments are played.
For McCarthy and her Malone teammates, that has meant training in small groups of five people instead of as a whole team. That's led to less interaction with many teammates in order to follow health and safety protocols, but it's also given the Pioneers the opportunity to get to know the other members of their smaller groups well.
McCarthy credits Malone with doing a good job of keeping campus and athletic life as close to normal and as safe as possible in the midst of the pandemic, but there's no question it has had an impact.
With all of those effects swirling around and the normal aspects of making the transition to college life, it's been a story of buying into the team's approach and believing in the program.
"I've definitely been doing a lot of good training and trusting the process," McCarthy said. "I would say just in general the tough part is increasing my mileage from high school and adjusting to that, trusting that all the miles I've done will pay off eventually."
That, along with learning how to run the 5K distance better, has set the table for success during a winning freshman season for McCarthy. After running 35 miles a week in high school, she is now logging about 50 miles a week at Malone. That means not only spending the extra time running those miles, but also taking better care of her body and making the best use possible of recovery days and recovery runs.
Additionally, compression sleeves help her legs bounce back from long runs and races, along with getting enough sleep and refueling her body with good nutrition.
While indoor track doesn't offer the chances for spectators the way cross country did due to restrictions put in place because of the pandemic, McCarthy is happy to be running and going to school close to home. Her family was able to attend her cross country meets and the hope is that in the future, when spectators are allowed back at all sports in a fashion close to normal, they'll be able to attend track meets.
The family connection is at the root of McCarthy's running career. The sports management and business administration major began running in middle school because someone she knows well was already part of the sport.
"I started in seventh grade because my sister who was four years ahead of me ran cross country," McCarthy said of her older sister Megan. "I was like, 'I'll try it,' but I had no idea I'd fall in love with it."
While both sisters ran at Manchester, Mackenzie was able to build on her time competing for the Panthers and build it into the chance to compete beyond high school. Her next running career goal is the have enough success to earn sponsorships so she can keep on racing after college.
With a minor in coaching as part of her academic plan, she intends to stay involved in the sport in the future whether as a coach or competitor. It's part of the process as she builds her career one step at a time, setting her own pace and taking aim at the next goal on the list.