To size up Sean McGorty during a race this season, cross-country runners couldnít simply pick a lane and blow past him. A more practical option would have been to bust out a pair of binoculars and search for the steadily receding speck in the distance.
Such was the nature of McGortyís final high school cross-country season, which saw the Chantilly senior capture first place in every race he entered up until the Foot Locker National Meet in San Diego, where he finished second. With state titles in both track and cross country under his belt, McGorty will head to Stanford next fall carrying plenty of confidence.
Q: You're coming off a year full of accomplishments: a track state title in the 3,200-meter race, individual region and state cross-country trophies, your school's first-ever team cross-country title at states, finishing second at nationals. What achievement meant the most to you this year?
A: The achievement that meant the most to me this year was winning cross country states as a team. To be able to share that special moment with guys that I have been running with my entire time at Chantilly was truly amazing. Winning this year as a team was perfect. It was the last AAA state meet before the new divisions and it was my coachesí 50th season of coaching track or cross country. I will always remember that moment of being up on the podium with all of them and sharing the moment with a group of guys that worked so hard.
Q: The Chantilly boys were a dominant force on the cross-country scene all season. How were you guys able to sustain such a high level of consistency?
A: I think we were able to do it both because of our chemistry and because of how hard everyone worked to keep getting better each week. Our team is very close and I think that really helps on hard workouts because we always have each other to help motivate and push each other to run faster and work harder. We had a group of ten runners who wanted to be part of the top seven so everyone was always motivated. The combination of these two things I think has really helped this season.
Q: Your cross-country times have dropped significantly over the course of your high school career, even compared to your performances last year. How are you always able to keep improving?
A: Before each new season of cross country I have tried to set a list of goals for myself so I have something to train for. Each year I have made these goals progressively harder, which I think has helped me improve. I have a long range plan so I donít run a lot of mileage yet, but I have increased from last year. I also will try to look to see if I can add things each season to help improve my running, or I try to do everything I did from the last season, but just faster.
Q: What kind of confidence did winning that first state title in the spring give you as runner going forward?
A: Winning that first state title was a great feeling and it made me want to build off of that success and use it to do well in my last year of high school running. It helps verify that what I am doing is working and that I just need to stay on track with our program.
Q: You said back in August that your ultimate personal goal for cross country would be to finish in the Top 5 at the Foot Locker national meet, where you ended up finishing in second place. As you continued to pile up victories over the course of the season, did your goal ever become to win the whole thing?
A: Throughout the entire season my main goal was to always get Top 5 at Foot Locker Nationals. As I got closer to the meet and saw what kind of shape I was in I did start to think I had a chance of placing high, but my goal was always to get top five and first team all-American. I am thrilled that I was able to accomplish that goal, but honestly I should say that every race I run I think about winning; itís my competitive nature.
Q: What kind of reaction did you get from friends, family and classmates when you got back from San Diego?
A: My friends are great! The Lull family and my brothers met me at the airport with signs, balloons and banners for the three Northern Region runners at Foot Locker [nationals]. As for my classmates, they asked why I lost!
Q: Entering your freshman year, you decided to quit soccer and basketball so that you could take up running in high school. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you hadn't made that decision?
A: If I hadn't taken up running in high school I think that I would have ended up just focusing 100 percent on soccer. Up to that time, soccer was my favorite sport and was a major part of my life. Itís very fun to talk to my old soccer friends and hear about them signing with colleges. I am not sure what would have happened, but I would like to think that I could have been playing soccer at the college level.
Q: You committed to Stanford in November. What do you hope to achieve as a collegiate runner?
A: College track and cross-country is full of state champions, so I will just be one among many next year. Itís like being a high school freshman all over again where I started in the middle of the pack and made my way up to the top. Fortunately, we have been careful with my training by just progressing a little each year, so I am excited to continue to progress in much the same way I have during high school.