Senior Salute: Heath McDonald Of North Oconee


800m-    2:04

1600m- 4:41

3200m- 9:58

5k XC-  16:30

What were some of the highlights of your high school cross country and track careers?

I have a ton of highlights throughout my 4 years of running at both Lexington High School and North Oconee High School, but one that sticks out the most to me is the Atlanta Classic this past XC season. We were aware it was a fast course and knew we needed to kill it to win and every single guy pulled through. 6 out of 7 of us pr'd, with 3 of us going sub 17. it was a great team and individual effort helping make the bus ride back really memorable.

Did you encounter any struggles or adversity along the way that you had to overcome?

One huge struggle for me during my high school career was not being able to train all summer this past year then moving to a new high school on top of that. I was at a flight academy in Arizona where we flew twice a day and had class when we weren't flying. So for 8 weeks, while my teammates and competition were training, I was wishing I was training. To add to that struggle I moved to North Oconee for my senior year and it's a very different world running here in Georgia. The courses are harder and the competition is stiffer. But looking back on that, I would not change what I went through for the world, it's shaped me into who I am now.

Aside from the competition, what was the best thing about being a part of your school's program?

I was only at North Oconee for one year, but it was very apparent very quickly how much I loved this team. One thing that I valued way more than anyone else, because we didn't do this at Lexington, is when running out on the trails we'd give each other encouragement as we passed them. I just absolutely loved that because it is so helpful on the days you are struggling and may even help the person you are encouraging if they are struggling.

Are there any coaches or teammates that you've worked with over the past four years that you'd like to thank? 

I have a lot of people to shout out and thank because each one was super influential in my high school career. First at Lexington, I want to shout out Coach Harris and Coach Ox, you guys are awesome and thank you for everything you did the first 3 years. A shout out to William, Sol, and Zander, you guys pushed me to be better every single day and I am truly thankful for that. For North Oconee, I want to shout out to Coach Moore and Coach Morse, y'all made this transition seamless and I couldn't have asked for more support in such a difficult situation. And finally shout out to my boys Alex, Tucker, Max, Davis, Bo, and Matthew. You guys rock, thanks for making me one of your own.

How are you coping with COVID-19 and the looming possibility that your HS track career is over? 

At first I was devastated that the season I was looking forward to the most was over. But now I have learned to appreciate what I can. I am getting amazing cross training on my road and mountain bike, I'm learning to love running for more then just competing. I'm also grateful getting to spend more time with my family which is awesome right before I go off to college.

What are your plans and goals for the future? Do you intend on continuing with the sport in college or in another capacity?

I will be attending Georgia Military College and completing the Air Force Academy's preparatory school while I am there for a year. I will compete cross country under Coach Sherwood while I am there. When I transfer to the Air Force Academy I will compete on their triathlon team for the remainder of my college career. 

What advice would you give to a younger athlete who's hoping to have a successful and enjoyable high school career? 

My advice is to really just love what you do. I've never seen a reason to continue doing what you hate. Find a reason to really love running and then you will definitely see huge results that you want. Also stay consistent.  Consistency in distance running is what makes great runners, keep grinding and embrace the suck.