Sunday, December 27, 2015

Catching up with Granada senior runner, Megan McCandless...

Today we chat with Granada senior runner Megan McCandless. This past season, Megan had her best cross country season to date with multiple course records, a section championship, a 2nd place finish at the California state meet which qualified her for NXN.

1) What other sports have you played aside from cross country and track and field? When did you start running? What were your PRs in track before high school?
I have always enjoyed running. When I was in elementary school, my dad would participate in community races and I would run the kids' mile. Because I liked running, I wanted to join a competitive team. My parents made me try a bunch of other sports first, though. I had to try softball, volleyball, and basketball before I was allowed to run more. In seventh grade, my parents finally let me join a USATF club team, the Pleasanton Heat. My PRs in track before high school were 5:15ish for the mile and 10:48 for the 3000m.

2) What were some of your proudest accomplishments during your first three years in high school in both sports?
Some of my proudest accomplishments during my first three years of track and cross country were placing 8th at last year's XC State Meet and qualifying to State my Freshman and Sophomore years in Track.

3) When do you feel like you started to embrace running and it became really important to you?
I really started to embrace running when I joined the Pleasanton Heat, and then it became even more
important to me when I started running for Granada.  At Granada, there was such a positive team
atmosphere and the Seniors really motivated me. Now, with all the Freshmen on our team, I want to do well so they can see what is possible.

4) What does a typical week look like for you as far as training? Morning runs? Weight work? 
Total weekly mileage? Longest run? Pace during most of your runs? Usual training partners?
A typical week generally has two workouts mid-week and a long run on Saturday. During the main part of last season, I doubled five days a week in a cross country first period class. I also went to the gym about two times per week. I normally train with the Varsity boys. My runs are at typically 7 minutes/mile or a bit faster, although there will be some runs where we go under 6 minutes for the last mile. My longest long run was 14 miles, and I have run a lot of 12 milers. I normally cross train on  Sundays. Biking is my favorite cross training activity. All together my mileage was 55-60 miles per week most of the season.

Here is the week of the EBAL center meet:
Monday: morning-4 miles, afternoon-easy 6 miles plus strides
Tuesday: morning-4 miles, afternoon - easy 4 miles as a pre-race
Wednesday: race day- 7 miles, including warm-up, race, and cool-down.
Thursday: morning- 4 miles, afternoon - 6 miles plus strides
Friday: morning- 4 miles, afternoon  - 5 miles hilly. Lift weights
Saturday: 14 mile long run
Sunday:  Bike for about an hour and lift weights.
Total: 58 miles

5) Did you do anything different this past summer in terms of training?
This past summer I put in more mileage than I have before, and my mileage really increased once school started. I also biked a bit more.  Mostly, it has been a continuation of my training of the past three years. Also, Granada puts on its own running camp at Point Reyes, which helps with team bonding.

6) Looking back at your past season, what do you feel were your 3 best races? 
I feel that my best race was NXN, second-best EBAL Championships, and third-best State. At NXN, I  came in with no expectations; I was just incredibly happy to be there and raced only nine seconds slower than the State Championships in far worse conditions. It was nice to see Cate Ratliff do so well at NXN.  At EBAL, I broke the course record by 27 seconds (2.95 miles in 16:30) which really gave me a confidence boost. At State I was very happy with my time and second place behind Gillian Meeks who ran a terrific race.

7) Who are your coaches and how have they helped you get to your current level? What have you learned from them?
My USATF coach was Kevin McCarthy. He inspired me to be competitive in running while still enjoying it. Once I got into high school, Coach Mattern (Noel) really worked with me to do my best. He forced me to push myself harder than I ever thought I could, and it worked. He had also created a strong distance program with a great team atmosphere. My freshman year was Granada's third year winning EBAL and NCS in a row so we had an expectation of excellence. I felt if I didn't run my absolute best, then I would let down the team; it really motivated me to do well. This year, Coach Mattern's brother Coach Jeremy joined Granada's team. He added a positive spirit to the team that really helped us excel this year. He taught me that even if I have a bad race, I have to learn from it and then be satisfied with how I raced.  In the past, I would beat myself up if I didn’t meet my pace goal or set a PR regardless of the conditions.

8) Tell us a bit about your NXN experience. What were some of the highlights? 
I absolutely loved the experience at NXN, and I'm so proud that five Northern California girls qualified as individuals.  During my freshman year, I thought that it would be so cool if I could qualify, but I never really thought I could, so it was a dream come true. I loved watching the Elite Athlete Question and Answer session, being able to run with German Fernandez, and having Mo Farah give us a high-five before the race.  The pro athletes are amazing and friendly, and it was interesting hearing about their lives.  The race itself was a great experience and I enjoyed it immensely. It was so different to run in a pack of other fast girls which challenged and motivated me. It was also nice rooming and swapping training stories with Morgin Coonfield.

9) Favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC course? Favorite opponent(s)? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF workout? Favorite free-time activity?
My favorite XC Invitational is Clovis because both the Granada team and I have done well there.
My favorite XC course is Shadow Cliffs. It is pretty flat and at just under 3 miles you can run some very fast times. Also, it is where Granada has won EBAL, and even finishing 2nd this year was still a plus.
My favorite opponent is Brooke Starn from Monte Vista. Whenever we race, we both run super fast
times and it is a nice change from running by myself.
My favorite XC workout is either 4x1 mile at 5k pace or 5x1000m in Sycamore Grove Park at 5k pace. I love the longer repeats.We normally do all of our long runs in Sycamore Grove Park, so my favorite long run must be there, but the longer the run, the better.
My favorite TF Invitational is the Dublin Distance Fiesta. I love how it is focused on the distance events and how many heats of each event are scheduled.
My favorite TF event is the 3200m.
My favorite TF workout is 400m repeats. I feel like I can keep running them forever, no matter how hard it is to run each 400.
My favorite free-time activity is reading; I especially love sci-fi novels. When I can get away for the
weekend, I love backpacking and hiking in the summer and cross country skiing and biathlon racing
(skiing and shooting a 22 rifle) in the winter.

10) You are still in the midst of making your college decision. What are some of the key factors 
that will determine your decision?
I want to study engineering, so I've been focusing on schools with excellent engineering programs.  I also want to broaden my experiences and be of service to the country, so the East Coast is appealing and I am even considering the military academies.  While I want to continue running in college, the education is most important to me, so I am torn between running Division 1 or Division 3.  I used 2 of my official recruiting trips plus visited a number of colleges unofficially with my parents.

11) Looking ahead to the spring, what races are you most looking forward to and what are some of your goals?
I was disappointed with the end of my track season last year, so my primary goal is to qualify for the State Track Meet this year.

12) Anything you would like to add.
A big thanks to all my coaches and teammates. They have made running so much fun and rewarding.
Also, thanks to everyone I have raced against for making the races better and more exciting. Thanks to my dad for helping me cross train. And thank you for interviewing me.

Thank you very much for your time Megan! AJC

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