Athlete Spotlight: Sean McGorty

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Photo by Don Rich


Coming from two high school and collegiate track star parents in pole vaulting dad Kevin McGorty and distance running mom Vicki Verinder (now Vicki McGorty), Chantilly junior Sean McGorty has already made a name for himself with his own two feet. McGorty this past fall qualified for the Foot Locker Nationals (like his mother did at Langley in the early 1980s) in San Diego and had an impressive run at Balboa Park to finish 10th overall and beat his friendly regional rival at Annandale High School in Ahmed Bile as well in the race. While not pressured or pushed hard to run by his parents when entering high school, McGorty made a big jump in his sophomore year to earn All-State honors in both cross country, indoor, and outdoor track. Most impressive among his All-State accolades as a sophomore was the fact that he was able to successfully double in the distance races with top 8 finishes both indoor and outdoor in the 1600 and 3200 meter run.


McGorty is part of a growing list of national caliber and state champion distance runners being developed by Chantilly coach Matt Gilchrist in the past six years following the likes of Chris Foley, Lia Divalentin, and Brad Siragusa. The Chantilly team, led currently by McGorty, has been achieving some first-time feats and ending long droughts for the program including winning district titles last year in track and winning major invitationals in cross country as well as advancing for the state meet for the first time since 1992 this past fall.  At the first day of the Concorde District Championships last week, McGorty got the Chargers out to a grew start when he ran a state leading and personal best time of 4:15 for 1600 meters. interviewed the 2011 Foot Locker All-American in McGorty in between the six day break between day one (January 26th) and day two (February 2nd) of his district indoor championship meet at the Prince George County's Sports & Learning Complex. Interview with Chantilly junior Sean McGorty As a freshmen at Chantilly, you got to be teammates and train with a 3200 meter state champion and Northern Region cross country champion in Chris Foley. What did you gain out of that year having an older runner and role model in Chris competing at such a high level and accomplishing quite a bit?
McGorty: Having Chris on the team my freshmen year was a blessing.  He was a very talented runner and very disciplined which is something I have always admired in him.  Being able to see how he trained during workouts and then see it pay off in all of the meets, really provided insight on what it was going to take to get to that high of a level.  I think that having him there helped me become who I am as a runner today. You were unable to qualify to compete as a freshmen at the state meet, but how did you view your development as a runner that year and what did you consider as some of your best races from ninth grade?
McGorty: Overall looking back I am pleased with my freshmen year.  Going into high school I had only planned on running cross country to do a fall sport since I still played basketball and soccer, but after cross country I rethought that idea.  Some of the best races that come to mind are the Indoor State meet my freshmen year where even though I only ran the 4x800m it was still a great experience at that level.  Also my mile at outdoor districts because it was my fastest mile of my freshmen year and it was a good confidence booster. Have some of the accomplishments and times run by Foley been motivation and goals for you since he graduated to try and match or beat?
McGorty: Ever since Chris graduated I have had his times as my goals.  Chris had run really fast times so they were perfect goals for me to constantly be thinking about while I was running.  This year especially I have looked at his times and set them as goals and pushed to beat them if I can. Your coach Matt Gilchrist has really established himself over the past six years in developing some elite distance runners between yourself, Foley, Lia Divalentin, and Brad Siragusa. What is it about Coach Gilchrist's coaching methods specifically that produces the success with talented individuals?

Photo by Ed Lull
McGorty: Coach G creates a very fun environment to train in.  He develops a relationship with you which makes it really easy to communicate with him when something doesn't feel right or when I want to focus on different things.  What helps produce such good distance runners I think is how he lets us build up a strong base before putting really intense workouts in.  He is very careful with making sure that we are peaking at the right times which I think has helped me, Chris, Lia, and Brad all perform so well in the later part of the season. Over the past two years particularly, the Chantilly track and cross country program as a team has experienced its best years in recent history. I know you can't speak specifically about comparing what is different from the current and recent teams to the past teams, but what do you attribute to the recent resurgence of the Chantilly program?

Photo by Dave Watt
McGorty: Lots of things I think have contributed to the team's recent success, but it has always started with our coaches believing in us.  As the postseason comes around they instill a sense of confidence that I think gives everyone motivation to perform better than they have so far in the season.  We have also had great athletes like Chris and Mo that have helped show what it takes to win races and I think that has motivated the entire team to perform at a higher level.  The CYA Track a program set up by Ed Lull has helped because it has introduced kids to the sport at a younger age and helps to bring in a larger variety of kids to the team which helps us a lot. You have pretty good track & field genes between your father as the pole vaulter and your mother as the distance runner. How has the relationship been between you and your parents in regards to your own running? Did they encourage you to get into running? Are they involved in giving you advice and pointers? Or are they hands-off? 
McGorty: When I was younger I knew that my parents were both athletes at UNC, but until high school I hadn't really thought too much about.  Now it is a huge blessing because I am able to talk to both of them about race strategies or about my workouts and I know what they are telling me back is accurate.  When it came to signing up for cross country my parents suggested that I try it, but they have never forced me to do anything in the sport.  They will give advice and pointers and I appreciate that greatly.  
(Photo left by Andrew Kicinski) You have two younger brothers as well who I'm sure the other apples did not fall too far off the tree either as far as inheriting some running ability from your parents. The middle brother Ryan is now a freshmen teammate with you at Chantilly. Any predictions on what we can expect from the younger siblings down the road?
McGorty: For my brothers I don't know really what to expect.  Whats important to me is that if they run throughout high school that they have fun with it because running is actually a fun sport.  Time wise I am not really sure what to guess, but I know after watching Ryan run freshmen year in cross country and indoor I have been very proud of him and look forward to seeing him improve in outdoor. I only wish I would still be around when my youngest brother Brandon comes to high school too. What can you say on the improvements made by your fellow junior teammate Logan Miller over the past year? No one really heard of this kid at all until this cross country season despite running some good times at the end of outdoor and many races it was you and him running up front 1-2. Especially with Foley and Mo long graduated, has Miller's emergence helped still having someone else on the team competing at a high level to train with?
McGorty: Logan's improvements have been amazing since last year.  He is a really a great runner and I think having him on the team benefits us both.  We always help each other in workouts which is a blessing.  Without a doubt I think that having him on the team has helped me become a better runner and I hope that I have helped him in the same way. Talk about the rivalry and competition between you and Ahmed Bile. Obviously its a more of an even playing field in cross country between the two of you as Ahmed is more of a middle distance guy, but the two of you seem to have a good friendship which the trip to San Diego together probably helped further that along as well.
McGorty: Ahmed is one of the greatest runners the state of Virginia has ever produced and I am very thankful that I not only get to race him, but that I am also friends with him.  He is a awesome guy and I really like that we are able to go from competitors to friends once the race is over. The trip to San Diego was really fun with him and it was nice that he was able to talk to me about some of the things that happen and give me insight on the course and besides that, he is really funny! How significant was the win against Ahmed earlier in the cross country season at the Oatlands Invitational? Bile sometimes is thought of as unbeatable and his kick is feared by many, but you seemed to determine that day to not be another victim of his strong finish. Also seemed to be the first time that people nationally outside of Virginia started to take more notice of you as a Foot Locker hopeful.
(Photo right by Ted Plunkett)
McGorty: That win was very important to me because it gave me a lot of confidence.  After losing to him at Monroe Parker, I knew that if I wanted to win at Oatlands I was going to have to go out strong and keep that up for the entire race.  I was able to do that which really made me feel good especially because that course is very hard.  After that race was the first time that I became aware of so that was a very good race for me in many ways. What kind of training did you do following the state meet heading into the Foot Locker South Regional as well as after leading up to Foot Locker Nationals?
McGorty: Going into Footlocker I tried to keep up the same amount of mileage that I had been doing and just change up some of the hard workouts.  I think I went on the track for a couple of workouts and did some 800ms, but I also did lots of interval training on the road because I knew that the pace would be changing a lot during that race.  Brad Siragusa was actually training with me during that time and that was a great motivator for me while I was training. Going into the race in San Diego, how high did you honestly believe you could finish and what were some of the main strategies that you or your coach wanted to execute during the race?
McGorty: After talking with my dad and my coach my goal was to try and get All-American.  We had talked about how there was the big hill and we agreed that I should try to use this to my advantage while racing.  We also knew that it would be important to not get gaped and stuck in no man's land during the race. Recall your entire Foot Locker Nationals race if you can. Your thoughts and feelings before the race, the start, your first mile, your second mile, your last mile and finish, and the post-race reaction.
(Photo left by Victah Sailer of
McGorty: Going into the race I was nervous, but also very excited.  This is what I had been working for all season and to finally be there made all the hard work worth it.  Lining up at the start I just tried to stay focused and review my race plan in my head.  The first mile for me was trying to find my spot in the race.  I knew I needed to get up near the front and I wanted to do that as soon as possible.  In the second mile the front group started to thin out and I knew that it was going to be important to hang on.  Going up the hill in the third mile was very hard, but I got a lot of adrenaline coming down and trying to catch up to people.  When I finished and realized I was an All-American I was so happy I didn't really know what to do with myself, I called Brad Siragusa after my race on the phone and he was really excited, that meant a lot. What did you gain most out of the Foot Locker Nationals experience?
McGorty: The Foot Locker experience gave me an opportunity to run with the best cross country runners in the nation and that was a really awesome experience.  It also was a big confidence booster since I was able to run with people at this high of a level and it gave me something to aim for next year. I would really like to make it there again. How excited or proud was your mom (former Langley star Vicki Verinder) for you becoming a Foot Locker National finalist too like her in the 1980s? What is it like for you share a similar accomplishment like that with your mother?
McGorty: My mom was so excited it's hard to express in words.  She is almost always at my races supporting me and I think that she was able to watch me qualify and then make the trip out to San Diego was very special for her and it also was for me.  For me to always be able to say that both of us qualified to run at Foot Locker will forever be a special memory that I can share with my mom. How was your break after the long cross country season? When did you take it? How long and what did you do during that time instead of running?
(Photo right by Andrew Kicinski)
McGorty: I started my break on Sunday the day I got back from San Diego.  I took about a week and a half off and then began to start running every other day to get my legs back into the swing of things before I went to running everyday.  During the break I did nothing really because I wanted to give my legs a chance to recover from such a long season. You had an impressive double this past weekend at Liberty with nearly two state leading times in the 1600 (4:19) and 1000 (2:32). How did you feel about your races this weekend and what does the 4 second PR in the 1000 indicate about your speed or strength development from a year ago?
McGorty: I was pretty happy with my races at Liberty considering that it was my second meet of the season and I had only been running for three weeks.  I think that the 1000m shows that my legs are getting stronger from all of my training and I just hope to improve on both of these times later in the season. Even more impressive doubles for you came at both indoor and outdoor state championships last year as a sophomore. It is not easy to come back with another strong effort in a second race on the same day at the state meet given that the competition is so tough to crack the top 8 and still be able to save any energy, but you did it with All-State honors in both races indoors (1600 & 3200) and outdoors (3200 & 1600). What did you learn out about yourself as a runner in those two state championship meets? Also what is your mentality and approach in trying to double back well in another event in a meet like that?
McGorty: Being able to double like that at a state meet proved to me how much I had grow as a runner both mentally and physically.  At the indoor state meet after competing in the mile, I didn't want to race again in the two mile, but after talking with my dad and my coach I decided to and I am very happy that I did.  I knew that I had changed mentally in outdoor because as soon as I had finished running the two mile I was already looking forward to running the mile so that to me just showed I had grown as a runner.  When I know that I have to double I try to focus on the first race I have and only start thinking about the second one when the first race is done so I don't become too nervous.

Photo by Brandon Miles You have gone without any major setbacks or injuries so far through the midway point of your junior year. That is quite rare to find a top distance runner to go that long without an injury to cause them to miss training and racing. What do you think has been the keys for you being able to stay relatively healthy for your high school career so far?
McGorty: For me the biggest thing that I try to do is pay attention to my body and if I am feeling something to be cautious of it.  I don't mind having to miss a run or cut a workout short because something is bothering me because I would rather let my body heal then instead of it becoming a serious injury.  I just try to listen to my body and I think that has really helped.
(Photo right by Ryan Kelly) Do you have any specific time goals for this year on the track? Also do you plan on doubling again at the state indoor meet or looking to focus on one event instead?

McGorty: As far as times go I would like to qualify for Nationals in the 1000m, mile, and 3200 and possibly get some school records. So that would be around 2:31, 4:12, and 9:06 but honestly that all depends on what races I'll be able to run with a short indoor season. As far as doubling for states I am not sure right now.  If I feel like I am in good shape and have a chance to do well in both then maybe I'll go for it,  but there are a lot of great runners in the state who could steel the show so we will just have to wait and see.