MACPHERSON ON FAST TRACK
BY BILL HUNT
15 JUNE 2012Sarah Macpherson and Adam Gaudes will enjoy a quick reunion in Calgary later this month.
Emphasis on the quick.
The Fredericton Fast Tracks athletes — a happy couple for the past three-and-a-half years despite the demands of school and scheduling that confronts elite track athletes who are each pursuing biochemistry degrees at separate universities — both met qualifying time standards for their events and will therefore get to compete at the Canadian Olympic team trials June 27-30 in Calgary.
MacPherson, the 21-year-old Fredericton native, who finished her third year at the University of Tulsa this season, lowered her personal best time in the 1,500 metres to 4:25.86 at a meet in Arkansas in May, while Gaudes, the outstanding male track athlete in Canada West in his sophomore season at the University of Victoria, met the Olympic qualifying standard in the men’s 800 metres.
Macpherson had run a 4:28 at a meet the previous week. But in one of their daily conversations — “we Skype a lot,” she said — Gaudes informed Macpherson that the Olympic qualifying time was 4:27.
“He told me that I should hit it so we could both go to Calgary,” she said.
Inspired by that, and her mom Susan’s desire to visit a sister who lives in Calgary, Macpherson met the standard with something to spare at the meet in Arkansas the next week.
The time, the fourth fastest in school history, was also good enough for her to qualify for the NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas, a personal goal she had set at the start of the outdoor season, and an ambitious one, considering she had missed the entire indoor season with a series of nagging injuries.
“My coach didn’t think I would, but I did,” she chuckled.
That meet happened May 24-26 and delayed her return to Fredericton until last week. But there’s no rest for the weary: she’s been training with head coach Greg Allan and the Fast Tracks club pretty much since.
“I find it fun, because he keeps it interesting,” she said.
After the Olympic trials, both her boyfriend and her mom have their eyes on the NACAC U23 championships in Mexico in mid-July. She has to run in the 4:22 range to qualify there, and she’ll get a chance to do that at a meet in Quebec in a couple of weeks.
“It’s not out of reach,” she said. “I can drop three or four seconds. That’s the plan.”
You might say she’s right on track — has been since Grade 3 in fact, when she was the fastest kid in her elementary school class as an eight-year-old.
“I was winning my races in elementary, so my mom encouraged me to stay in it,” she said. “But no one would train me because I was so young. When I was in Grade 8 or Grade 9, Greg started coaching. We had heard about him and he said he’d train me. I was one of the first ones he trained.”
It’s paid off handsomely. Not only has it helped provide her with a quality education — she chose Tulsa over more than 20 other schools, including Harvard — but she got a boyfriend too. She and Gaudes push each other.
“He joined Fast Tracks about a year after I did,” she said. “We had been running together the whole time, and been in meets together and trained together. I used to be able to run with him when he sprinted. But then he got a lot faster.”
She was in Grade 12 and he in Grade 11 at Fredericton High School when they began dating four years ago in October.
“He keeps me focused,” she said. “We push each other, because we like to work a lot outside of what everyone else does. It keeps us motivated. We talk about running all the time. We catch ourselves sometimes and say, ‘Let’s talk about something other than running,’ ” she laughed.
And yet, her goals for next season are already clearly defined. She wants to crack 4:18 in the 1,500 and be among the top two in Canada at that distance in order to qualify for the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, next July and make the NCAA national championship meet next year.
Macpherson will graduate on schedule next year — academics have never been a problem — and is being tugged in opposite directions. Her dad, Bruce, wants her to come back to Fredericton. Her boyfriend wants her to join him in Victoria. At some point, she’ll write the MCATS (Medical College Admissions Test) exam and decide whether or not she wants to go to medical school.
“I still have to figure it out,” she said.
Running will remain a part of the equation.
“If I hit my goals that I’ve set and I’m running well, I probably won’t stop,” she said. “If I’m running below 4:20, I’ll keep running. I’ll have to set more goals then. I’m not sure what, but it will always be important to me.”
The attraction is simple, and yet complicated.
“I like succeeding,” she said. “I like surprising yourself. Sometimes, you don’t realize you have it in you, and you do. And it’s nice to hit your goals.”