Aug 05, 2021
How did you get involved in cross country and track & field?
Throughout my childhood, I grew up on the stage, finding my sense of self through ballet, choir, and theater. I wasn’t particularly athletic, and the competitive nature of sports clashed with my introverted personality. After doing surprisingly well in the infamous FitnessGram PACER Test of my generation’s youth, my elementary school gym coach encouraged me to try out for the cross-country team as a rising middle schooler. I gave the sport a chance, and after a summer of training, I was obsessed. Trading in my ballet slippers for a pair of sneakers, I gave my whole heart to running and haven’t looked back since. Eight years later, cross country and track & field have gifted me state titles, personal records, appearances at the national level, and, most importantly, an unshakeable grit that applies to every aspect of my life.
What has been your greatest sporting achievement?
My greatest achievement in cross country and track & field has been the opportunity to train, compete, and represent the Georgia Institute of Technology in Division I athletics. All my race wins, course records and championship titles led up to this pinnacle moment of being offered an athletic scholarship by the incredible coaches at Georgia Tech. The gratitude and optimism this team brings me is the most special accomplishment of all.
What is your biggest motivation to keep pushing your limits of your performance?
The greatest motivation that keeps me determined through the highs and lows of this sport is my parents. When I started running in middle school, they followed in my footsteps and completely transformed their lifestyles to revolve around health and fitness. Years later, they have run several half and full marathons and continue to better themselves through running and clean nutrition. Their choice to immerse themselves in the world of running along my side has made the sport even more special. It is something that connects us as a family, and I remind myself of my parents’ support and love when it’s time to overcome the fear of failure and push a little further.
What are your aspirations in sport?
At the end of my freshman year of college, my coaches asked me, “McKenna, what is your why?” The question made me consider the true reasons behind devotion to cross country and track. After days of genuine consideration, the answer I came to superseded victory and shiny medals. I am a runner because it brings me strength. Beyond muscles and speed, this sport has given me mental strength that is building my resilience. It is a strength that will follow me off the track and into my future as a productive, powerful woman. My greatest aspiration in cross country and track & field is to nurture and cultivate this vigor for the rest of my life. In terms of running specifically, I am striving to win a national title with my team and quality for the Olympic Trials in the marathon following college.
How do you balance training and competition life with your life outside of the sport?
I have found balance between training and my life outside of running by clearly defining what fulfills me in life. When we understand and consider what brings us true happiness, it becomes simple to avoid wasting time on the meaningless. I value my family, relationships, and other passions equally with running. Inevitably, there have been moments I have had to miss out on something due to a workout or a race; however, I have learned to manage my time in ways that allow me to balance my sport’s schedule with the plethora of things that make me who I am!
What advice would you give to a young aspiring athlete who is looking to take up cross country / track & field?
Be patient with yourself. I wish someone had engrained the value of patience in me from the start, but I’ve always been a very impatient person. I love to work hard, but I expect results from my efforts to appear in a mere instant. I’ve learned it’s a very unrealistic, unhealthy mindset that leads to quick disappointment and short-lived enthusiasm. If you’re looking to seriously pursue long-distance running, stay patient, calm, and consistent. I’ve been in your shoes before, hungry for faster times, longer runs, and tangible progress. I promise it will all come to you if you remain diligent and persistent!
If you could be a professional athlete in any sport, which sport and why?
The obvious answer to this question would be a professional distance runner, but to make this a little more interesting, I’m going to make my current sport off-limits. If I couldn’t pick running, I would be a professional ballerina. Before we dive into this debate, I wholeheartedly consider dance an art form and a sport. It requires a deep sense of creativity as well as a high level of athleticism and physical strength. Previous to my running career, I danced for years at a small studio in my hometown. My heart will always have a warm place for the feeling of a pirouette in pointe shoes. It would be a dream to dance for a professional company and travel the world performing shows like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Romeo and Juliet.
Describe your perfect weekend.
My perfect weekend would take place in Atlanta, GA during the fall. The air is crisp in this fantasy and the leaves on the trees have already turned auburn and gold. After a tough, successful workout around Piedmont Park with my teammates, we all head back to the locker rooms for ice baths and recovery. That evening, my roommates and I cook dinner and bring it to our favorite parking deck in the city for a little picnic with a skyline view. On Saturday, it’s game day! My roommates and I go for an easy run before the game and meet some of our teammates at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the afternoon. The game is thrilling and intense, but the Yellow Jackets manage to overcome the pressure and dominate! To finish off this perfect weekend, I have a great long run (my favorite type of run ) at Kennesaw Mountain with my team on Sunday morning. We stop by Dunkin Donuts for coffee after putting in plenty of miles and cruise down I-75 with the windows down and the music loud.
How has Beet It Sport helped your performance?
Beet It Sport has helped me feel exponentially more energic during workouts and competition! My stamina during critical, exhausting sessions has experienced an immense improvement since I started using Beet It Sport. I feel more physically capable to keep pushing on, whether it be a long, hard training run or an intense race effort.
Anything additional you would like to say about Beet It Sport?
I love the fact that Beet It Sport is helping a wide variety of athletes! From rowers to runners to cyclists, Beet It Sport is connecting all of us through a collective drive to perform at our very best.