The Next Step
The extra mile (on the road to college)
Elizabeth McGurk: The recent Mascenic graduate will run for a Viking alum at Keene State in the fall
Elizabeth McGurk set the Mascenic course record last fall during a season where she went all the way to the New England Championships. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Elizabeth McGurk, a 2013 Mascenic graduate, will attend Keene State College this fall and will run for the Owls' NCAA Division III women's cross-country and track and field programs. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Elizabeth McGurk finished fourth overall at the Division III Championships this fall and went on to place 23rd at Meet of Champions to earn her first trip to New Englands. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Elizabeth McGurk capped off her hgih school running career with a win in the 3,200 meters at the Division III Track & Field Championships this spring. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
When Elizabeth McGurk began running at Mascenic, she thought her best chance at success would be as a sprinter.
Turns out her greatest strength comes when she sets her sights on a much longer distance.
For someone who did not start running cross-country until her sophomore year in high school, McGurk has made some drastic improvements over the past three years. And her plan is to show just how much more she has to offer over the next four years at Keene State College as a member of the Owls’ NCAA Division III women’s cross country and track and field teams.
“I really just wanted the opportunity to run,” said McGurk. “And for me, it’s about the coach and not about the division.”
McGurk wanted to stay in New England and had the opportunity to run at a few schools, but after touring the Keene State campus and meeting with longtime coach Peter Thomas, a Mascenic alum, she knew it was the right place for her.
“Being a Mascenic grad I’ve always kept my eyes on things there,” said Thomas. “Fortunately for us she had an interest.”
Having run in a college style program at Mascenic under cross-country and track and field coach Mike Smith and indoor coach Yolanda Flamino, who is a former collegiate coach, McGurk is prepared for what lies ahead.
“Smith is phenomenal that way,” said McGurk. “It’s really the whole point of his program. He really wants to prepare people to run after high school.”
When Thomas gave her the summer workout package in order to be ready for preseason next month, McGurk was not phased. Usually it is a big step up in miles for incoming freshmen, but not McGurk.
“She looked at it and said ‘that’s way too easy,’” said Thomas.
By the time she gets to school, McGurk is supposed to be up to 40 miles per week. But that is nothing new to her since she averaged more than that last summer. McGurk started her summer workout with 35 miles a week and is expected to be around 50 by the time she arrives at Keene State.
“She’s a very hard working, very dedicated young woman,” said Thomas. “She’s an athlete whose willing to put in the miles and do the work.”
That is just the kind of athlete she is. McGurk knows that running is not something that can be done half hearted and it is why she works so hard. It is why she pushes herself to be better than she was the day before.
“I really like the sense of achievement because it’s on you to put in the work,” said McGurk. “You have to be dedicated to the sport to get something out of it.”
Over the last two years, McGurk has been the lone female runner on the Mascenic cross-country team, so she has spent much of her time training with Smith and members of the boys team. While she believes it has made her a better runner, McGurk is also looking forward to being part of a team filled with dedicated runners like herself.
“I’m really excited for that because when people join at the college level they really have to be into it,” said McGurk. “It’s going to be nice to be around a big group of people that understand running. It’s always nice to have teammates who will encourage you and push you.”
She is up for the challenge of cracking the top seven on the varsity team, a position that Thomas believes she can achieve.
“She’s very competitive and I think she’ll rise to the challenge,” said Thomas. “I think she’s going to be quite good for us.”
McGurk wants to prove she belongs on a college team and is prepared to work tirelessly to do it.
“I just have to work hard at my training and be dedicated and everything should fall into place from there,” said McGurk.
And if her first three years in the sport are any indication of things to come, there is no question that McGurk will be in the mix.
As a sophomore at Mascenic, McGurk finished 37th in Division III with a time of 23 minutes and seven seconds.
The following year she made the jump to seventh in D-III and qualified for Meet of Champions and last fall, during her final high school cross-country season, McGurk not only finished fourth at the Division III meet, but also placed in the top 25 at Meet of Champions to earn her first trip to New Englands. Between her first appearance at the D-III meet and her final one as a senior, she shaved almost three minutes off her time.
“I feel like I had a really great high school career,” said McGurk.
And the assumption is that she is only going to continue to get better. She has just started to scratch the surface of her talents.
“I really think that I have a lot more improvement left,” said McGurk.
While McGurk has done quite well in track and field — considering she won the Division III 3,200 meters this spring for her first state title — she prefers the longer distances. The more ground she has to cover the better McGurk seems to be. As far as cross-country goes, McGurk will mostly be running the same 5K distance as high school with a few 6K meets during the season.
In high school, the longest track race was two miles, but at Keene State she will have the chance to run 5K and 10K races, which should suit her well.
Even though McGurk has not dreamt about being a college runner since she was young, she is passionate about her next step.
A lot of runners can get burnt out at this point of their career, but not McGurk. She is ready for the challenge and plans on making the most of her opportunity — one mile at a time.