Photo Credits: UC Davis Cross Country, Track and Field Club / Courtesy. The UC Davis Cross Country, Track and Field Club poses for a photo at the finish line of the NIRCA Pacific Regional in Belmont, Calif. on Nov. 2, 2019.
After placing 2nd in Regionals for Women and 3rd for Men, both teams prepare for 2019-2020 National Championships
Since its formation five years ago, the UC Davis Cross Country, Track and Field Club has given students of all backgrounds an outlet to run. The club is a student-run organization that aims to create a team and community of student-athletes, accessible to both undergraduate and graduate students, per its mission statement.
The team covets being a part of students’ healthy, active lifestyle, and supporting all types of athletes. As far as the team’s competitive scene goes, it competes in the National Intercollegiate Running Club Association (NIRCA), which is essentially the club equivalent of the NCAA. The club follows the European club sport model, which is structured to include opportunities for all levels of athletes, including highly competitive squads that are training for serious events, up-and-coming athletes looking to enter the competitive stage and social fitness-lovers who simply would like friends to run with.
Club members can put in anywhere from 10-80 hours per week, depending on dedication, personal goals or schedule. Although there are plenty of runners who are a part of the team solely for fun, there are a handful of athletes in the organization who are there to prove their worth as high-level competitors.
One runner in particular, graduate student Clancy McConell — a geography Ph.D. candidate — has excelled on the national stage throughout his collegiate running career. In 2018, running behind a few other dominant teammates, McConell placed 20th in Individuals and contributed strong runs to help Davis capture 3rd place in the Team competition at Nationals in Richmond, Virginia. There was seldom reason for McConell to hang his head, as the top two spots in Individuals went to Davis runners competing in their final college races, teammates Jon Horvath and his close friend, Nathan Kwan. Kwan, the founder of the club in 2014, now coaches the team, yearning for the long-term success of the program.
McConell himself has had a tumultuous journey over the course of his running career, which has undoubtedly made him a stronger athlete. When he arrived at UC Davis in 2012, the club still did not exist.
“I jogged when I could, but I essentially took a two-and-a-half-year break in running between high school and college running,” McConell said. “It wasn’t until the fall of my junior year (2014) that I found out about the reorganized running club. I joined immediately and really enjoyed the competitive aspect.”
Since June of 2018, McConell has been combatting Achilles tendinitis in his left leg. It wasn’t until he started rehabilitation at the Student Health and Wellness Center that he saw substantial improvement in his Achilles. With the help of physical therapist Teri Lavallee and her staff, as well as sports medicine physician Dr. Amy Sekhon — who he says he greatly thanks and appreciates — McConnell was able to compete at the 2019 Nationals in November, in which he won the Individual competition outright. He recalled that cross country race as the “hardest race of [his] life, hands down.”
“The race was interesting,” McConell said. “I started out leading, then spent two-thirds of the race looking at the back of competitor Joe Clark. So, I thought I may have gone out too hard. Turns out, I just wore him down with the chase, and I overtook him with 1K to go. I finished about 50 yards ahead of him.”
McConnell won first place in the men’s individuals and pushed the men’s team to place sixth overall in the team competition.
As far as balancing the demands of the sport with academic duties, both McConell and Devan Becker, the current club president and fourth-year environmental science and management major, attribute their success in the classroom to being a part of the club.
“Running helps me be better and more focused in life, and that includes my academic life,” McConell said. “It also relieves stress, which allows me to have better mental health throughout each quarter. Without a doubt [it helps me be a better student]. It’s the only thing keeping me going in grad school.”
Even though the idea of joining may seem daunting, both of these student-athletes are clear-cut examples of the benefits in joining. And McConell’s advice for prospective members? “Join now.”
“Almost every person on the club who didn’t join when they started college says they wish they’d joined or heard about us sooner. And anyone can join — we have a good mix of all levels and interests in running/field events: XC, track, field, marathon, trail, etc.”
Becker followed a similar sentiment.
“I plan to continue running competitively until I die or am physically unable to run,” Becker said. “It’s just too much fun. Running is for everyone.”
The XCTF Club is always looking to grow, welcoming all prospective members. The group meets Monday through Friday a little before 4:30 p.m. at the Woody Wilson Track.
Written by: AJ Seymour — firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect minor statistical inaccuracies. The Aggie regrets the error.