Fourth-year Ryan McCarl capped off his collegiate cross-country career at the NCAA Championships in Northfield, MN on Saturday. Crossing the line in a respectable 26:03, McCarl came home 141st out of 240.
As the top runner on the 2007 men’s squad, McCarl was tasked with pulling together a palpably young and inexperienced contingent. McCarl turned out to be a capable team-leader and one of Chicago’s strongest athletes in program history. At the head of the men’s pack in almost every race on the schedule, including a top-10 performance at the ultra-competitive Midwest Regionals, the veteran was set to make an impact when he went head-to-head with the best of the best.
A two-time National competitor, McCarl represented Chicago once before at NCAAs in 2005 when the Maroons came home with the ninth-place finish, the highest in program history. As an individual qualifier with nothing to lose this time around, McCarl was hoping to nab All-American honors. After a quick start, McCarl edged into the top 50, but finding the heat a little too hot, he fell back and out of All-American contention midway through the 8k course.
“He stepped over the fine line of what he was capable of in general and what he was capable of on that particular day,” head coach Chris Hall said. “He ended up fading, but fading for all the right reasons. It was a risk he took, but it was exactly the right kind of risk to take when you’re racing at NCAAs as an individual.”
Although his fall term ended just shy of his ultimate goals, McCarl’s All-Region and All-Conference recognition in addition to the program record he set at last weekend’s Midwest Regional Championship should provide the Muskegon, MI native with plenty to take away from his time as a Maroon.
“His final cross-country season was definitely very productive and strong,” Hall said. “He ran some of the best times we’ve ever seen our guys run and he has a lot to be proud of.”
Hall predicts that Maroon fans will be seeing even more of McCarl when the indoor campaign kicks off January 12.
“I’m excited for his track season,” Hall said. “I definitely think he’s a stronger track athlete because he really is a fine middle distance runner. I believe he’s going to see even more National meets and possibly stand on a few more awards podiums.”