March 22, 2014 11:41:07 PM
STARKVILLE -- Patrick Reagan always looks for the perfect fit.
As coach of the cross country team at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Reagan knows the recruits he might attract to the NAIA school in Savannah, Ga., are a specialized group of talented athletes and artists.
That doesn't mean Reagan has to do all of the work himself because sometimes the perfect fit has a way of finding him.
Joseph MacGown never imagined he would be a perfect fit at SCAD. In fact, the former Starkville Academy and Starkville High School cross country and track and field standout didn't even realize the school had a cross country program. As a multi-talented artist, MacGown was pleasantly surprised to discover Reagan was the coach of a nationally competitive cross country program. The more research he and his father, Joe, did about the school, the more he realized SCAD was an ideal fit.
Reagan couldn't have agreed more, which is why he recently offered MacGown a scholarship to join the cross country program.
"Joseph and his father reached out to me about the potential for him to be an artist and an athlete at next level," Reagan said. "He was the perfect fit at SCAD for our competitive program at the NAIA level. Joseph is the ideal guy. He was the total package in terms of being extremely talented in many mediums, especially illustration, music, and visual mediums. SCAD is a perfect fit for him.
"A guy like Joseph doesn't come around every year. He is a great fit. I am really excited about having him next year. He is absolutely the perfect recruit."
MacGown hasn't run track and field since his ninth-grade year at Starkville High, when he became the only ninth-grade male to make the state meet in track. As an eighth-grader at Starkville Academy, he won the 3,200 meters in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA division. He also was second at the MAIS cross country meet. As an 11th-grader at Starkville High, he won the Class 5A cross country meet. He is believed to be the only Starkville High male to win an individual state cross country championship. Following his junior year, MacGown opted to run on his own. He didn't run for Starkville High in the fall.
Despite not running in high school, MacGown, who finished high school in December, has stayed busy. In January, he finished first in the 15- to 19-year-old age group at the First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, Ala. His time of 1 hour, 18 minutes, 25 seconds was about five minutes faster than the 17-year-old Mississippi state record. His resume also includes first-place finishes at the Mississippi College High School Cross Country Challenge last August, at the Kim Gee 5-Kilometer last May, at the Gumtree 10-K last May in Tupelo (first in his age group with a state record for 10-K for 16-year-olds; 15th overall), and at the Old Cotton Mill 5-K in Starkville and the Spring into Action 5-K in West Point.
MacGown was humble about receiving a scholarship opportunity to run cross country in college, saying "it just kind of happened." He said he and his father did their research on the Internet and posted his times on websites for college coaches to see. He said they also emailed coaches in an effort to find the school that had the right balance of academics and athletics.
"You just have to get yourself out there and show the coaches you have interest," MacGown said. "I don't really remember any conversation (with his father) about (finding a college where he could run cross country). We just kind of looked into it to see if it would be a possibility and then a lot of different opportunities popped up."
MacGown said he visited Millsaps, Belhaven, Austin Peay, and a bunch of other places that were close enough to drive to see if he could find the right fit. He said things came into focus after his father, Joe, did some research about SCAD and discovered the school's cross country team was competitive.
"We didn't know at first it would work out at all, but it turned out pretty well," MacGown said. "It is a great opportunity. I didn't even know it had a cross country team until this past summer."
MacGown said he is experimenting with a variety of art forms, including poetry and experimental arts and music. He said he is kind of "working everything together" and feels he has found a great school where he can grow as an artist.
MacGown has been running competitively since junior high school. He said his father was his coach at Starkville Academy before he moved to Starkville High School. He said the meditative aspect of running initially appealed to him. He said he continues to have the carefree enjoyment of the sport that he first had when he used to run in the rain or run through the mud as a youngster.
As he has matured, MacGown said he has gotten stronger and has seen his times get quicker and quicker. He said running continues to be a "childish" thing that has a calming influence on him. He knows that will be a challenge as he moves on to college because his mileage will have to climb to 70 miles a week. He said he is working up to that number of miles in anticipation of becoming a full-fledged cross country runner in college.
"I am grateful to have the ability to run and grateful to be able to run in this situation and have this great opportunity," MacGown said.
Reagan said it is a "50-50" mix of recruits that reach out to him and ones he contacts. He said Joseph "recruited" him in part because of the cross country program's success. Since becoming a coach at SCAD in 2011, Reagan has coached 11 runners who have qualified for the NAIA National Cross Country Championships. Nine student-athletes have qualified for the NAIA Track and Field Championships. Reagan also coached one NAIA Track/Field All American as an assistant.
Reagan feels MacGown has the same potential. He said MacGown's experience running longer distances makes him believe he will be able to transition to life as an 8-K runner in college.
"I foresee Joseph developing into a fantastic half marathon and marathon runner when the time comes," Reagan said. "Joseph is going to be a great fit for the NAIA.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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