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McDonald makes state run in rookie season

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The girls and boys teams pose with their respective first place trophies at the Regional Championships Oct.21

The girls and boys teams pose with their respective first place trophies at the Regional Championships Oct.21

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The girls and boys teams pose with their respective first place trophies at the Regional Championships Oct.21

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Nobody expected Jimmy McDonald to do what he has done in his first high school cross country season. In his first year, McDonald helped paced the Cougars to victory at the regional meet in October, has been the front-runner all season and came out as the only male qualifier for Vernon Hills.

“It’s kind of weird being the only qualifier. Now, I run the workouts mostly by myself,” McDonald said.

McDonald said that it was cool to have his brother and parents at the finish line of the sectional race, but mentioned that he didn’t have much of a reaction to qualifying for state.

“For whatever reason, I wasn’t that emotional about it,” he said. “I was proud I ran well, but I was absolutely exhausted from the race.”

It seems appropriate for him to be exhausted, as McDonald ran the race in 15 minutes, 43 seconds, taking 8th place at the sectional meet at Maple Park (Kaneland).

Although McDonald is the only male qualifier, he said he has received great support from his team.

“Bryan Shim and Sean Kim are probably the most supportive individuals. I can always count on Bryan to scream at me to run faster during the races, and he’s been a real silent leader on our team,” McDonald said. “Sean Kim is another individual who brings energy to practices.”

Despite this being his first cross country season, Coach Mark Whitney said that McDonald has been a great role model and one of the team leaders.

“He is a superb role model for a student-athlete; motivated, determined, dependable and respectful. Jimmy has helped several of our freshmen develop into varsity athletes and has led by example all season,” Whitney explained.

McDonald plays lacrosse in the spring and explained that it is a bit of a tough transition from lacrosse workouts to cross country workouts.

“In lacrosse, I had to be stronger and more agile. For cross country, I needed more endurance,” he explained. “This was my first season of high school cross country, so it’s been interesting learning how to train for endurance events.”

It appears as though he has transitioned well, considering the season he had. Whitney said that anyone can develop into a good distance runner “if they dedicate themselves to training and are willing to make certain sacrifices in other parts of life.”

Whitney also explained that they not only want to develop the athlete but the student as well.

“We focus on helping every student-athlete reach their potential as a runner and also develop as a young man.”

Whitney expects everyone on the Boys Cross Country team to have a positive attitude, make a full commitment and give their best effort everyday.

“The goals for the season are to perform our best when it means the most, for everyone to improve, and for guys to look back and say they had a rewarding experience as part of the team,” Whitney said.

As a team, the boys narrowly missed qualifying for state at the sectional meet, Whitney said. Although there might be still be some disappointment, Whitney called it their best team performance of the season. The boys had won the Regional Championship meet the weekend before (Oct. 21) in Antioch.

“The boys’ team had a very good season this fall. Winning the Regional Championship was the highlight and showed that we continue to be a very competitive program in Class 2A,” Whitney said. “Coming very close to qualifying for the state meet was also a big accomplishment for a team that lost 5 of the top 7 runners from last season.”

Whitney spoke highly of McDonald’s dedication to the sport, attributing his success to “his training discipline and focus during workouts, the ability to push through pain and discomfort and being able to overcome some aches and pains along the way.”

At the IHSA state meet Nov. 4 in Peoria, McDonald took 33rd place with a time of 15 minutes and 29 seconds. He said that there were no major surprises regarding state. He knew that it was going to be a hectic race.

“The only surprising part was how fast kids started the race,” McDonald said of the other competitors. “I ran a four minute, 53 second to four minute, 55 second first mile, and I wasn’t even close to the lead guys.”

He said that his race was just okay, but a memorable weekend and season nonetheless.

“I put it all out there, but I was running on empty by the 3rd mile. My first mile was very fast in comparison to my second two miles,” he said. “It would have been smarter to run even splits, but I don’t regret my race strategy. Regardless of my final race, it was a great overall experience.”

McDonald will return for his senior season next year, along with the majority of this year’s roster.

“The team has very good potential going forward. There were only eight seniors on the 50-athlete roster this season,” Whitney said on the future of the team. “Our Frosh-Soph squad had a great season and should develop into a very competitive varsity squad.”

Cross Country runner James McDonald runs at the Regional Championship meet

McDonald runs at the Fox River Park Regional Championship meet Oct. 21

The girls and boys cross country team poses in front of their bus that will take them to state

The girls team, McDonald and coaches pose outside the bus before heading to Peoria for the IHSA State meet

James McDonald runs around the flag by himself at the boys cross country senior night meet

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McDonald runs at the Senior Night quad meet Sept.19

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McDonald makes state run in rookie season