SPORTS MIKE: Patriot Junior Rachel McArthur Eyes All-American Status at Nationals

| December 4, 2015 | 0 Comments | Sports, Sports Mike

Listen to Mike Ploger’s in-depth interview with Patriot High School cross country runner Rachel McArthur.

A “runner”: The one word Rachel McArthur uses to describe herself. Her friends may say she’s crazy, or funny, but to her, she’s simply a “runner.”

Picking up the exercise as a hobby in middle school, the now junior at Patriot High School didn’t think much of it. Just like for many of us, running was a way to clear her head or stay busy. With the endless amount of distractions facing individuals today, running is a way to put it all behind you and focus on yourself.

Never did McArthur imagine running would take her the places it has just three years into high school.

As a sophomore in 2014, McArthur qualified for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) after finishing in first place at Regionals. One week later she would find herself nearly 3,000 miles away in Portland, Oregon for the National meet. While finishing 25th amongst nearly 200 runners from all over the country, she admits she could have been more serious about the trip.

“Last year I wasn’t really into it at all,” McArthur states. “I was there like ‘I’m a sophomore, let’s just have fun.’”

For what it’s worth, who can say they’re a top 25 cross country runner at the high school level in the United States? Well, the obvious answer would be 24 others. What separates Rachel McArthur is she was simply “having fun.”

Nonetheless, McArthur had reached the pinnacle of cross country running with two years remaining in her high school career. The only steps she could take next were positive, right?

Unfortunately, McArthur hit a road block about a month ago when she started experiencing pain in her right quad. The pain was bearable to an extent, but how long could she handle it? The better question was: what was the chance the nagging injury would derail her plans on returning to Portland?

After a race in both Manhattan, and Winchester, she decided to see her physical therapist. She was diagnosed with a partial tear in her quad the day before the most important meet of her team’s season.

McArthur was faced with a decision any athlete would hate to make. She could run with her team at the 6A North Region Cross Country meet, or skip it and rest her quad injury for the next meet.

While the physical therapist had their own suggestions, McArthur made the decision entirely on her own to not run. Coach Adam Daniels informed his team the morning of the meet, but competing schools would not be aware of the breakthrough at Patriot.

“I was under the impression they were going to qualify without me, which is what I was told,” says McArthur. “But unfortunately not everything works out.”

The Pioneer team fell one place shy of qualifying for states, finishing seventh with 185 points, 24 points behind sixth-place finisher West Springfield.

Despite not running and her team failing to reach the state meet, McArthur reassures herself that the injury can be looked at as positive.

“Mentally it made it me stronger that I was injured and I was able to come back from that,” she says. “After getting an injury and making it, that shows me that ‘hey I’m not that affected by this injury.’ If I can mentally push through it then physically, imagine when I’m healthy!”

Suddenly, plans changed for McArthur. She would not be returning to the state tournament and would have to compete individually at the NXN Southeast Regional as an individual once again.

After a month away from running, struggling to jog or even climb stairs, McArthur was back in Cary, North Carolina. The same place she finished in first-place just a year ago.

This year, nearly a week ago on November 28, the quad injury would show it’s strength. Finishing in fifth place with a time of 17:32.9, McArthur would collapse during the 5,000 kilometer run.

For her, the time may not have been what she was hoping for, but her effort to finish the race and qualify for Nationals was enough to satisfy her.

“I think if I race with as much effort as I did at NXR, I’ll be happy with my results,” she says. “Just giving it that much effort.”

Her goal this weekend isn’t based on beating a specific time. Becoming an All-American is priority number one for the Patriot junior, which may require a top 23 finish.

She once again be surrounded by runners from all throughout the United States with one common goal: run fast and run hard. She’s more focused than she was a year ago, but the question of how well her quad can hold up remains.

Rachel McArthur can be seen taking to the course at 12:30pm EST on Saturday, December 5. Tune in to http://www.runnerspace.com/nxn for live coverage.

Mike Ploger has spent the entirety of his life in Northern Virginia, with the exception of earning his Broadcast Journalism Degree from West Virginia University. He eats, breathes, and sleeps sports in the area unless he’s out riding his unicycle or playing a round of disc golf.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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