McGrath Leaves UO Track Team

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), May 29, 2004 | Go to article overview

McGrath Leaves UO Track Team


Byline: Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

Mike McGrath, arguably the most notable of the in-state middle-distance/distance-running athletes secured in Martin Smith's six seasons as the Oregon track and field coach, is leaving the Ducks.

The freshman from Portland said Friday that he would complete spring term at the university, then "go back home and get things situated."

"I want to be a great runner," said McGrath, who led the nation last season as a senior at Portland's Lincoln High with his state-record time of 1 minute, 48.56 seconds in the 800 meters. "I do not feel I can do that in this environment.

"I know my leaving is a pretty big thing. I know I was one of the best recruits coach Smith brought in here."

Smith, who was with the Ducks at the NCAA West Regional meet Friday in Northridge, Calif., said he was disappointed.

"We do not ever want to lose an athlete unless it is for the right reasons," he said. "But I am supportive of Mike's decision. He just did not feel he was evolving as an athlete to the level he wanted under our training system."

The 19-year-old McGrath, who won the OSAA Class 4A 800 title at Hayward Field one year ago, struggled during his first season in a Duck uniform.

His fastest 800 was 1:50.24, clocked during the Oregon Twilight meet on May 1.

While he secured race victories at the Oregon Preview and Oregon Invitational meets, McGrath was unable to advance to the 800 final at the Pac-10 Conference championships two weeks ago in Tucson, Ariz.

The decision for him to not compete in this weekend's regional meet prevented McGrath from attempting to qualify for next month's NCAA Championships at Austin, Texas.

"The Pac-10 meet probably was the straw that broke the camel's back, but my decision to leave Oregon was not made on any one race," said McGrath, a slender, 5-foot-7 athlete who was a silver medalist in the 800 at the USA Junior Championships last year.

McGrath said his relationship with Smith, who coaches the team's distance runners, "is good on a personal level."

"There is nothing political or personal about my leaving," McGrath said. "My frustration was that I did not feel I was getting good enough training to become a good runner here. This is a system that really works for some, but for some others, it does not."

McGrath said that he and Smith had conversations about the coach's training system.

"I talked with Coach about implementing some of the things I did in high school, but he did not feel that was the way to go," McGrath said. "I understand that he does not want to compromise his training program, but with that program, I just cannot meet my needs. …

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