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Summer workouts, first-meet success inspire McConkay

Tigers host cross country invitational Saturday

Blake McConkay
5b91842f13336Blake McConkay
Blake McConkay

Though he finished in the top 10, Blake McConkay’s most memorable moment from last year’s Broken Arrow Cross Country Invitational was running alongside his younger brother in the elementary race.

This year, he hopes to be setting a pace in Saturday’s event alongside fellow Tiger senior Andres Chappa.

The two were just eight seconds apart – Chappa first, McConkay second – in the season’s opening meet at Tahlequah. BA boys won the meet, while the girls, paced by freshman gold medalist Payton Hinkle, finished second.

“Having a great team performance is something that is really motivating,” McConkay said, looking back at the Tahlequah meet. “We’ve been a little rocky in the past. That good team performance is inspiring. It will have us a little more motivated to perform well at our home meet.”

The Tahlequah Early Tiger was a 4K race. Teams will run a full 5K Saturday at Broken Arrow’s hilly Oneta Ridge Course.

“We’ve always had issues getting the same four or five guys to work out together consistently,” said McConkay, who has qualified for the state meet the last two years, but was the only Tiger boy runner to qualify in 2017. “This year, over the summer, we’ve had a good group training consistently together.

“It’s more motivation for me knowing that someone is putting in just as much work as I am, and is dealing with all the fatigue and stuff. It’s just nice knowing there is someone who has your back in training.

“Cross Country teams have an advantage when you have a good group of guys who can stay close to each other in a pack,” he continued. “When you have a bunch of guys who know each other real well, know how you train, and how you race then you’re going to be that much better as a team.

McConkay has put in more than 160 miles of road work this summer. He also worked out with the swim team to develop more strength and stamina.

“I focused on not missing any workouts,” he said. “I wanted to remain consistent with my training and hitting all the volume I needed to hit. I’m feeling pretty good right now for how much running we’ve been doing. It definitely starts to wear on you toward the end of the season, though.”

Last fall, McConkay suffered an overuse injury to his hip. He was more than 40 seconds slower at the state meet then he was when he set his personal best of 16:22 at the Chili Pepper, hosted by the University of Arkansas.

His personal challenge is to finish in Top 10 at state. The outlook for his fellow runners is that they qualify as a team for the state meet.

“We are a lot more competitive than we have been, we just need to keep all of our guys healthy,” McConkay said. “We have quite a few underclassmen that are stepping up right now. We know what to expect from ourselves going forward. It’s not going to get any easier, and we are going to have to continue to work hard to reach our goals.”

McConkay’s competitive senior year does not end with cross country. He is the Tiger track team’s top 800 meter runner. McConkay likes the variety of running both races.

“With 5Ks, the racing is always the same,” he said. “The atmosphere is a little different in cross country.  It’s more of a team environment.

“With track, it seems a little more personal because there are only eight guys on the track. In a 400-person race you can get lost in it sometimes if you’re not at the front,” McConkay exaggerated the number slightly. “But with track, you’ve been racing these same guys all season. It’s just like a small group to you, so it’s super personal.

“With cross country, everybody is like a big family. You’re ready to do that one race and then have a good time.”

Saturday’s “good time” starts at 8 a.m. with the elementary races. The varsity races will follow the Broken Arrow High School Air Force Junior ROTC Flag Presentation at 9 a.m.

The meet is on the Tigers home cross country course at Oneta Ridge Middle School. Admission is free.