North Hall graduate Ty McCormack has had a successful athletic career early in life and, now, he can add another prestigious honor to his resume — Olympic trial qualifier.
On Oct. 31, the 23-year-old ran in the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon.
His finishing time, 64:27. The time he needed to beat to qualify for the Olympic trial was 65:00.
The event was the first time McCormack ran a half marathon. Still, he was aiming for the qualifying mark.
“It was something I had planned on going into the race,” McCormack said. “It was something I planned my training for.
There were some races I didn’t run so that I was geared up for that race at the end of October.”
Now, the former Trojan sets his sights on training for his first marathon, which he will compete in on Feb. 13 at the Olympic trial in Los Angeles.
“It’s definitely a daunting task,” McCormack said. “Really, this is just gaining the experience. As a 23-year-old, I’m one of the youngest in the race. It’s an opportunity I want to take advantage of.”
McCormack is training on his own in Orlando, where he now lives and works. He’s getting up before work around 6 a.m. to get in runs or sometimes running with a group on Monday nights.
“It is difficult to train alone and find the motivation to push myself,” he said. “I’ve always been self-motivated and been able to find something to push me. It’s just a reality I face to maintain a professional working career as well as a professional running career.”
After high school, McCormack ran for Clemson, where he graduated in three years with a degree in language and international business with a specialization in Chinese, and Auburn, where he graduated from in May with a graduate degree in finance.
At both schools, he garnered multiple places in conference championship events, all-conference honors and academic honors.
“I’m thankful for my experience at those schools,” McCormack said. “There are times when you’re getting pushed really hard, but it helps to be around great people and great coaches. They really helped me succeed, not only in athletics, but in academics as well.”
After graduating from Auburn, he feared running professionally wouldn’t be as fun as it was when he was in high school winning state championships or earning All-America status at the 2010 New Balance Nationals, so he opted for a professional career in the workforce first.
And, after running in the World University Games — an Olympic-esque games for university students from around the globe — in Gwangju, South Korea this past summer, he did just that.
“I felt it was better for my long-term future to pursue a professional career,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed getting professional experience. I’ve been able to learn about myself and the working world.”
While he says his work comes first at all times, it does make it harder to train for races.
“You can find excuses for why you shouldn’t do it, but you have to mentally push yourself,” McCormack said. “My training hasn’t been as much as it was at Clemson or Auburn. It’s been so much more focused on quality.”
Since he doesn’t have the set race schedule he had in college, he’s able to listen to his body and make sure he’s able before he chooses to race.
McCormack was able to run the Ole Man River half marathon in New Orleans Dec. 19, which he won with a time of 67:31.
To this point, his training runs have reached around the 20-mile mark, but his marathon will be a 26-mile trek.
“For me, I’m just happy to be there on that line with some of the best runners in U.S. history,” McCormack said. “I’d say 90-100 qualified and, if I get in the top three, I’m on the U.S. team. Right now, I’m just looking to finish the race.”
The former Trojan said he misses the team aspect he was able to have throughout college, but, though he’s keeping up with some of those past teammates, he’s entering a new brotherhood of sorts.
“Just saying that you’re an Olympic trial qualifier is interesting to people,” McCormack said. “When I won the New Orleans race, at the awards ceremony they said that I would be participating in the Olympic trial. I had somebody come up after that and say, ‘Hey, I was an Olympic trial qualifier in 1984.’ It’s almost like a fraternity.”
Though he’s trying to take the trail in February as an experience, McCormack is also hoping he can build on it and make the 2020 Olympic team.
“I don’t even know if words could describe,” he said about possibly representing his country on the world stage. “That would be the biggest honor. Anything in life pales in comparison to the Olympics, being able to compete in the World University Games gave me a glimpse of that. Whatever the Olympics is, it has to be 100 times that.”
McCormack has been able to run all over the United States, in South Korea and even in China when he studied abroad there while at Clemson. Still, in February, his hometown will proudly be announced as the place where it all started for him.
“I just want to say thank you to the people of Gainesville,” he said. “I’ve been able to race in Korea, China, and all over, but Gainesville is always home. When I step on the line at the Olympic trials and they announce my hometown, it’s going to be Gainesville and I wouldn’t want it to be anywhere else.”