Spotlight: Matt McCarthy

Matt McCarthy ’17 was integral to the Pioneer’s success this year.  Alberto Vazquez

Matt McCarthy ’17 was integral to the Pioneer’s success this year.
Alberto Vazquez

Matt McCarthy ’17 stepped up this season when the cross country team was down three of their five best runners by the third race of the year. The team went on to win Conference two weeks ago and will be competing in Regionals this weekend at Central College in Pella, Iowa. The S&B’s Editor-in-Chief Kelly Pyzik ’16 got the chance to sit down with McCarthy and hear about his love-hate relationship with racing and his all-love for the team.

The S&B: How is the season going?

MM: I think this season was pretty interesting in that I didn’t expect to be where I was by the end of the year. I think sometimes when people get injured you don’t think about trying to replace certain people, it just sort of happens, but it was nice to see Nate [Kolacia ’16] come back and run at the Conference meet when we needed him to.

When did you start running?

My dad used to take me to the track when I was really little, like before I could walk, and run with me on his shoulders in these races on Wednesday nights in our town. I’ve been around the track my whole life but I didn’t start running competitively until my senior year of high school. Up until that point I played hockey and lacrosse, and then I dropped it all when a friend convinced me to run cross country and I really enjoyed it and got back into it. I guess I’m relatively new to it.

What made you want to stick with it?

A lot of people say that they love the feeling of racing—I think it’s awful. I love running, I don’t love racing. But I do love the team atmosphere. When it comes to races, I’m never really racing for myself. I think it’s pretty sadistic to put yourself through that pain for your own accord. But running for other people is what it’s about, that’s why I like it. In cross country there’s a lot of solidarity in that everyone’s running the same race at the same time, and you need five people to make a team and get a team score. And you’re dependent upon the other but you can’t help each other. You’re doing it on your own, with your team. It’s a weird idea.

Is your dad a runner?

My dad ran in college for Brandeis [University]. His team won a national championship when he was a senior, but he never talks about it. So, I didn’t know that he ran until I started running, and then he told me, but then it all made sense, why I was always at the track so much. But I didn’t know that he started running so early in his life. … I didn’t know he was as good as he was.

Did you feel welcomed by the team when you got to Grinnell?

Yeah, I think the team is a pretty great group of people. … My first year was the last year of the $lum—long live the $lum! Team culture has changed since the team has stopped living there, but I don’t think it’s for the worse.

How has it changed?

I think our team had a much more self-destructive attitude when living in the $lum. It has definitely calmed down a lot. It’s also indicative of getting different types of students to Grinnell. It’s been fun teaching and talking with students younger than us, trying to keep some of that culture we enjoy alive.

Are there any really memorable moments from this year?

After our second meet, our team was in pretty rough shape. Adam [Dalton ’16] and Anthony [McLean ’18] didn’t run, Nate [Kolacia] didn’t finish the race, and we were down three of our top five runners. We were in a pretty rough slump for two or three weeks, and Salty [Dalton] went to California for a conference, and when he came back, for some reason, our whole team’s attitude had changed. The defining moment of the year for me was when he came in the locker room and said, “What the fuck happened? When I left, this team was such a shitty mess!” but when he came back our team attitude had completely changed. That was a turning point, and a cool moment when our team had to come together. I think that’s true for any team—there’s always a moment of solidarity when the team comes together. It must have been when Adam [Dalton] was gone, but to see his reaction to it was really fun.

What is your favorite Grill snack?

Oh, man. I don’t know if I really like a lot of Grill snacks. That’s a tough question. … I’m a big ice cream fan, but that’s Dairy Barn for me. My allegiance is with the Barn.