From Slacker to State Champion: A Look Into Owen McArdle’s Running Career

Claire Stromseth, Staff Reporter

Owen McArdle is renowned within the halls of our school for his success on the track and cross-country teams. His achievements make it evident that his fame is well-earned. 

McArdle won the Boys Cross Country State Champion title and was awarded Virginia boys Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year. For someone with accomplishments as notable as these, one might be surprised to find out the origins of his relationship with the sport.

“I wasn’t around for his freshman year, but from what I understand he started off as a relatively average runner. He has steadily progressed from his freshman year to his senior year because of his hard work. I’m sure he has some natural talent as well, but he wouldn’t be as successful as he is now without putting in the hours,” McIntosh said.  

McArdle agrees that he was not always the hard worker he is now. He admits to his lack of investment in his early days.

“I started in freshman year in cross country, and I’d skip practice when it was raining, when my friends were doing stuff, and never go on Friday. I hated it. My mom made me do it,” McArdle said.

Despite his rough beginnings, he decided to stick with it by the end of his freshman year. He cites his two friends, seniors Daniel Platt and Ian Johnston, as the reason he was able to do so.

“They were super fun to run with, so just having something to look forward to at practice and becoming part of the team really helped me enjoy the sport itself. No person in their right mind just likes running. Literally everybody hates running, but if you have friends who are part of it you can learn to love it,” McArdle said.

Once his commitment to running was secured, McArdle pushed the limits of his capabilities. This is demonstrated through his growth over the span of his high school career. 

“I think he has certainly matured quite a bit…. It’s one thing to be in shape when you’re a competitive runner, but it’s another thing to know how to race, how to race well, how to deal with setbacks after a poor race, and I think he has managed balancing those different parts of running very well,” McIntosh said.

His work ethic and consistency were essential aspects of his process to becoming state champion. 

“Distance running is a sport that rewards time and patience. It doesn’t happen overnight. Obviously I made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, but it takes a while to actually get there and a lot of pain and suffering along the way,” McArdle said.

To aid his hardships throughout his progression was a trusty orange-flavored Gatorade. Coincidentally, Gatorade titled him Virginia Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. When he found out the award came with a thousand dollar grant to donate to any youth sports group, he immediately knew where the money would be going.

“I chose Special Olympics Virginia because I’ve been involved with them for a year and a half now and I just love it. I coached basketball this year, coached track last year. It was a really easy decision; it was the first thing that came to my mind. I just love doing it,” McArdle said.

Special Olympics Virginia is an organization built on inclusion. Their mission is to be accepting and understanding of everyone interested in sport, regardless of disability. The leadership Owen exhibits within this establishment is also apparent in his role on our school’s team.

“I think the other guys look to him not just because he’s the fastest or in the best shape, but because he has a kind of gravity to him….He is accepting and welcoming to people so that people feel like they can let their guard down around him. Super goofy guy, I’d say overall a really positive impact for the team,” McIntosh said.

McArdle credits his teammates and coaches as key parts of his journey. Aside from McIntosh, Kevin Robertson, another one of our school’s coaches, is someone who has impacted him greatly. As McArdle explains how he eats lunch with him everyday, it is apparent that they have developed a bond that few are able to achieve. Their bond becomes more discernible as Robertson sings his praises.

“After achieving both his Cross Country State Champion Title and Indoor Track and Field 3200m Champion Title in the same year of his senior year, Owen’s focus was continuously on self-improvement and how to better execute his next race. This, to me, epitomizes the type of person Owen truly is. It has been an incredible journey for me as his coach to watch him grow and develop into the successful runner he is today,” Robertson said. 

Alongside those he has met through our school, his family has also been a huge source of support. All of these people have helped him decide on his commitment to run at the University of Virginia (UVA).

“UVA just checked every single one of my boxes. The reasonable stuff like price and location, but they also just had an amazing team which is what I was really looking for, both skill wise and culture wise. They have a really renowned coach and just a great group of guys and a great school and a beautiful campus, so it was really hard to say no to that,” McArdle said.

As his college prospects prove, McArdle is an admirable student. He describes how he applies what he has learned on the track to his academic career.

“The dedication and discipline that you need to bring every day to practice and racing, the mental focus, has really helped me keep my grades up,” McArdle said. 

Mcardle also devotes this diligence to his work on The Sentry, being one of our very own reporters. He somehow managed to balance his scholars with a vigorous athletic schedule throughout the past four years. His unmatched progress prove his efforts were worthwhile; this evolution surprised no one more than himself.

“I remember that sophomore year I was not even thinking about winning a meet or coming in top ten at a meet. I never thought I would be in the position I am now, so it’s super cool to see all your work pay off,” McArdle said.