This week we catch up with Southern Belle, Cory McGee.
Cory had an exception college career with the Florida Gators, made the USA World Championship team her junior year and now runs professionally for Team New Balance.
I was a teammate of Cory’s my last semester competing for Florida. We crossed paths my senior year of cross country, her first semester as a Gator.
As an upperclassman I always tried to make time for the freshman and I knew that I particularly liked Cory from her first impression, a very proud Mississippian with some big goals.
As a freshman, Cory had maturity beyond her years. She already had the intensity, focus and determination of an upperclassman, this is fairly rare and it is very normal to take time to adapt to college life… Cory seemed to find her footing right away.
I vividly remember her telling me on the warm up of SEC cross country that she was going to beat my times in her freshman track season (with a big smile on her face)… After being a little taken aback by this confident eighteen year old (I had an NCAA #1 rank time that year) I smiled… because I actually believed it! I always knew Cory was going to go on to do great things, she always talked about running beyond college and it’s been great to follow along her journey and see her goals come alive. Cory works very hard and is a strong, beautiful and confident woman who goes after what she wants. She’s a great friend, sister, teammate and competitor and I’m really proud to feature her on Belle Lap and for Cory to share an insight into her life beyond the track.
Belle Lap: We heard that you won 22x Mississippi state titles in high school, is this true?
CM: It is true, while seemingly outrageous. The fact is, distance running was not the popular sport in my home state so it was special to be one of the first girls to aim for national level competitions and bring more attention to distance running within Mississippi. I knew at a young age I loved track and cross country. When I was introduced to distance running, I never thought twice, it became a part of me. I loved it immediately. With many supportive people in my corner, my goal to pursue running at a high level steadily continued throughout high school. I did play soccer for many years but when success in track began, other sports quickly took a back seat. I struggled with team sports when running became more prominent. The excitement of training on my own and seeing the direct result made me tick. I was committed to track by the age of thirteen.
Belle Lap: Your family seems very supportive of your athletics, how have they influenced you throughout your career?
CM: My family has influenced my career since the beginning. I was initially attracted to running when my older sister, Shannon, and my dad would go together to jog along the beach. For many years, running served as an opportunity for my family to spend time together and bond. When I began competing, my parents searched for race opportunities beyond Mississippi to help me further my exposure to national caliber competition and understand the process of developing into an experienced athlete. Many benefits came from their efforts to broaden my horizons. When I race I am certain my family is proud of me. My three sisters are fully and deeply supportive of my dreams and the support from my family constantly fuels me.
Belle Lap: How did a coaching change mid way through college affect you?
CM: Admittedly, a coaching change after a successful freshman year was difficult to handle. I was hesitant to trust a new coach. The idea of change is commonly difficult for an athlete with clearly defined goals. This was absolutely the the case for me. When I committed to UF, I visualized winning races with the coach who recruited me waiting beside the finish line ready to refocus and aim for higher goals. After a few months of understanding my new coach, I saw his commitment to my fellow teammates and eased into the transition. Once I trusted the change huge improvements followed.
Belle Lap: As a junior in college you sprinted past some of the top US women to finish 3rd at the USA 1500meter championships and followed by clocking the ‘A’ standard to qualify for the 2013 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships. What did making your first senior USA Team mean to you?
CM: Reflecting on that race still gives me butterflies. I believe it always will. I recall feeling incredibly confident standing on the starting line; I fully believed I belonged there among those women, even as a young college athlete. During the final 100 meters, I was not considering who was ahead of me, I was simply focused on my finish and felt I had extra strength to push harder. After understanding the result of the race, I felt certainty in my pursuit. For many years I imagined being among the top track athletes in the world. Finally, I was showing many others how devoted I was to my goal. I felt pride for the University of Florida and I felt love for my family as I stood on the podium and saw the crowd cheer for my fellow Team USA teammates and myself.
Belle Lap: Although you were competing at the same standard as the Pros, you returned to Gainesville to finish up your senior year with the Florida Gators. What influenced this decision and was it an easy one to make?
CM:The idea of leaving college after qualifying for the World Championship was briefly discussed. I knew there was potential to sign and begin a professional career, a dream I had for years. However, this thought was brief. I have always been true to commitments and I felt Florida provided unwavering support to me through injury, I believe I had a duty and responsibility to fulfill as a Gator athlete. Additionally, I recall a moment upon arriving to the Team USA camp ten days before going to Moscow. I arrived at the hotel in Linz, Austria. Coach Holloway stepped off the elevator into the lobby, he quickly greeted me with a hug and an enthusiastic “Cory Ann!” Any thought of leaving school immediately went away at that moment. I was fortunate to have four years in the orange and blue, cutting that short would have been a mistake.
Belle Lap: What advice can you give to female college athletes on striving to be a successful distance runner?
CM: My best advice for any college athlete is simple. Trust your strengths. Sometimes the exposure of so many new ideas, techniques, and paths to to top can cloud your own vision. Be true to your strengths. Believe in what makes you different from the rest and stick too it. Sure, it is good to be open to advice and improvement but it is key to feel confidence in your purest qualities. For me, this lesson came mid way through college. Once I revisited my basic love and passion to compete, I felt fully engaged and recommitted to my process as an athlete.
Belle Lap: Who is your biggest influence in life?
CM: There isn’t a single answer to that question. I find influence from so many people, each one is intricate and necessary. I have been blessed with many mentors and a family full of strength and love. I find inspiration and influence from my parents, I have always admired my fathers devotion to goals and my mothers relentless fighting spirit. My sisters are a constant reminder of my truest self, their influence brings me back to my center and helps me see the world clearly, they teach me how to appreciate every day and use it up entirely. Additionally, my high school coach, Yousri, saw something in me no one else could and pointed me toward my goals. He opened my eyes to the world of track and field.
Belle Lap: What do you like most about your ‘New Balance Boston’ training set up?
CM: My current training set up is unique in a way that encourages me to become a better runner but goes far beyond my athleticism. Initially, I sought out a team, a new training environment, and a coach I felt could take me to the highest level of competition. Instead, what I have found is a group of people who encourage me to be a more complete person. I am becoming a better version of myself every day. Practice goes beyond running, I leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and positive. I am so thankful to be surrounded by supportive, committed, loving people each day.
Belle Lap: Which book are you currently reading?
CM:currently I am reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
Belle Lap: What do you indulge in?
CM: I have a sweet tooth. When I indulge I enjoy apple pie with pecan praline ice cream. It’s baked in a cast iron skillet, which I also love.
Belle Lap: Can you share one of your style secrets with us?
CM: I think my unspoken philosophy has always been simplicity. I dress in neutrals, generally, and I figure if you dress things up with unique, hand-crafted jewelry and some pretty shoes you’ll look great and it never goes out of style. Also, Chanel lipspgloss is the only way to go.
Belle Lap: So What’s next?
CM: Next is having my first indoor season in two years, racing a few times on a small track before getting into outdoor and seeing how my hard work will pay off. I’ve trained consistently this fall and I feel stronger than ever. I love to race so I am looking forward to a longer season than last year.
Check out Cory’s snap story from last week in Flagstaff, AZ
Cory’s first race was this past weekend at the New Balance Games, she finished 4th amongst a stellar field in the women’s mile and clocked a new Personal Best of 4:30.93