By Cameron Reddin
Australia’s fastest 18-year-old, booming cross-country runner Morgan McDonald, is preparing to hit the track and take his name onto American soil. In March this year, McDonald placed first in the under-20 men’s 5000m at the Australian Junior Championships, in the process booking his seat on the plane to the IAAF World Junior Championships to be held in Oregon this July.
He goes into the World Juniors hoping to build on the form he showed at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships held in Bydgoszcz, Poland last year. Competing in the junior men’s 8km race, McDonald finished first of his countrymen and 33rd overall.
“I was really stoked with that event. To get that result and then back it up with a good summer over here is really great for my confidence.”
The tough and variable demands of cross-country running make the track a more comfortable addition to his calendar.
“It’s not like cross-country where the course is different for every race. On track the course is the same wherever you run so it’s a lot more predictable, but that means the competition is going to be on a whole new level.”
Success is no stranger to McDonald who wasted no time plying his trade after being introduced to the sport by an older friend. He regularly competed and placed in local under-14’s races from as young as 12, never once feeling like the small fish.
“That’s who I was training with. That’s who I was comparing myself against. I saw the standard as matching the older kids, and how comparing myself to them will make me better.”
In a sport so focused on personal success, McDonald has praised the tight-knit athletics community for nurturing individual and collective success across the various disciplines.
“I never go on an easy run by myself, I always call up some friends and we run together. I can understand why people think that [it is difficult to bond as a team] but it’s really not like that at all. We’re all good mates on and off the track, it’s a growing community.”
The World Junior Championships will be McDonald’s first run of many in his new home of the United States, thanks to a scholarship to Wisconsin University. According to him, the American collegiate system is one of the most competitive athletic environments in the world, and will support his transition from junior competition into the senior level.
“In Australia you get thrown in the deep end, once you turn 20 you’re up against full-time professional runners. College running will help bridge the gap.”
While programs aimed at developing athletes and coaches within Australia have improved over the past decade, domestic resources are still a long way behind the big-league of the United States.
“I don’t know if [a collegiate system] is plausible in Australia with the way universities are set up, but if we could get something to bridge the gap here I think it would help a lot.”
McDonald hopes to study business and science while on his scholarship.