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Interval Session #16 - Cory McGee
November 8, 2007

From the training grounds of Greece and Egypt, and the Katrina-ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 came Cory McGee to the famed McAlpine Greeway in Charlotte to vie for a Foot Locker Finals berth. The only problem was that she was an 8th-grader who had competed for a high-school team, but of course wasn’t a high school student. When she finished in the top 8 for the FL South team, she was “disqualified.” Unfortunately, race officials didn’t realize she wasn’t of age until the race was over.

But that didn’t stop Cory, and during the indoor season she captured the national spotlight for good in her specialty – the mile – with a 4:49.32 victory at NSIC. Yes, she ran sub-4:50 indoors as an 8th-grader. Although she had health issues that following spring, she came back as a 9th-grader in the fall and secured an official spot to Foot Locker Finals, where she was a solid 15th. She would go on last track season to place in virtually all the major miles and has continued to excel this fall with another Mississippi state title.

Cory indeed has some interesting stories to tell, and DyeStat’s SteveU and John Sullivan catch her down in the Gulf as she prepares for another run at Foot Locker glory.

1. Cory, congrats on your state title and your successes all fall. We heard that you were struggling a bit early in the season with a medical condition related to mold from Hurricane Katrina last year. Obviously, you’ve overcome it to run fast times again and win another title. Can you tell me a little bit how that came about, how it was diagnosed, and your recovery from it?

I started to notice in June that I was having trouble breathing and catching my breath. I thought it was because of allergies. I went to a number of specialists and they finally determined I had an infection in my lungs, which was restricting my ability to exhale. The infection was possibly caused by mold spores.

I had to lay off running for a few weeks and then slowly get back into it. I started to feel normal again about 4 weeks ago, just before the Mississippi College Invitational. I pushed it at that race a little and felt good. That was a good test before the State Meet because it’s on the same course.

2. This recent issue is only part of how you, your school and your running were affected by Katrina. Can you talk about all the things happened as a result of it two years ago and how you and your school and running were affected?

After Katrina, running was really the only “normal” thing! We had no school, no town and we were relocated away from our families for weeks. It took one year to be back in our school and out of trailers. We lost about one third of the students that attended our schools. Money wasn’t and still isn’t available for sports; we are still trying to rebuild our Middle and Elementary School. Our Elementary and Middle Schools are still in trailers and using portable toilets; that’s bad!

3. The first time a lot of people outside Mississippi heard of you was when you ran Foot Locker in 8th grade and finished in the top 8, but were not allowed to go to San Diego. What are your memories of that, and exactly what happened from your perspective?

At the time my feelings were really conflicting. I was happy to do well, but then the disappointment of not being able to go was crushing. I was invited to run and placed in that race. The confusion was that I was a high school athlete, but not a high school student.

But I don’t think about the confusion of the event; I only think about the experience, and in the long run I wouldn’t change anything. Things happen for a reason and I needed that run that year. Katrina had just taken our town, our school, most of my families homes, no water for showers, homes running off generators and cooking on a Coleman stove in the back yard and eating MRE’S. I could run and escape to a better place. I needed that run, that year, no matter if I went to San Diego or not.

4. Is it true your school didn’t really have a team a few years ago? I see Pass Christian was third in the state meet. How the team has grown around you and what has it meant to have these teammates?

We missed second place by 2 points this year. It is true, my school did not have a XC team when we moved back here from Greece. I ran on the team at my school in Greece, so when we moved back to Pass Christian, my dad asked if I could run in the State meet. I was in 7th grade and came in second. The kids at my school thought cross-country actually meant you ran across the United States!

The next year we organized the first team and I was on it with my older sister Shannon. Shannon and I ran together for two years. Now she’s running for Mississippi State. This year, my younger sister Devin is on the team with me. She’s in 7th grade and was named All State at the State meet last week.

There are several other girls coming up from the Middle School for next year’s team, and right behind them is my little sister Regen, who also likes to run. It seems running has really grown in popularity on the Mississippi Coast over the past few years. I hope I’ve helped influence people to do something positive, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

5. Can you talk about your training/coaching situation? Are you still coached by (Moroccan distance star) Yousri Elmejdoubi? Do you still work with him and how does that work out with the school coach? I thought I remembered you also worked with Trent Sanderson from Colorado.

Yousri moved to California to train, so he is no longer my coach. We are still friends and he checks to see how I’m doing occasionally. I have been working with Trent Sanderson (Crested Butte Academy, CO) and my parents help out a lot. My high school coach is Tim Ladner. He also helps me but my workouts come primarily from Coach Sanderson.

6. You’ve told us before a little bit about how you get your start running, about your father being an FBI liaison in the 2004 Olympics and that you were inspired by that. Please talk about how that happened and you got into the sport?

I started running with my dad before we moved to Greece. Once we moved there, I kept running with him. I had the chance to visit with some of the Olympic Athletes and watch them train. I also ran a race in downtown Athens that started and ended at the original Olympic stadium from 1896. All of this really inspired me. While I was running on the high school team, we traveled to Egypt and ran around the pyramids. During training, we would run all over the city of Athens, which has a lot of steep hills. I think this really helped my stamina and strength.

7. You’re someone who has a lot of aptitude in both the long distances and the 800/mile. As you’ve gotten older and developed your talents, where do your greatest interests lie? What are your goals for Foot Locker and for track as a sophomore this spring?

I run XC to prepare for track. My favorite event is the mile and I hope to some day run representing the United States. I’m looking forward to returning to Foot Locker Nationals and I want to improve my time. I want the team from the South to win the overall this year and I think we have the talent to do it.

8. We know all about your running, but we’d also like to know a bit about Cory McGee the student and Cory McGee the teenager. What do you like best in school and what do you like to do when you aren’t training or studying?

I like to spend time with my friends and family. We spend a lot of time together since there are so many of us girls. When I’m not running, we are traveling to the soccer fields to watch one of my other sisters play. We all do sports, so not much time is left to do other things. Swimming, running, skim boarding, sailing, soccer and on occasion movies with a stop at the Marble Slab (ice cream shop) … I love the last stop!!!

Photos submitted by Jim McGee

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