Sports Person of the Week
McCabe Blazes a Trail to Clemson
Former Haddam-Killingworh runner Conor McCabe is competing at the Division I level as a member of the men’s cross country team at Clemson University. (Photo courtesy of Conor McCabe )
Conor McCabe’s journey as a runner took him from Haddam-Killingworth High School all the way to Clemson University. As he’s traveled this path, Conor has displayed great determination to continuously improve one mile at a time.
Conor had a stellar high school career in which he helped the H-K boys’ cross country squad claim Shoreline Conference and Class SS state titles in three-consecutive seasons. Now a freshman at Clemson, Conor is competing for the men’s cross country team, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science at the Division I school in South Carolina.
“I chose Clemson first for its academics,” says Conor. “My running experience here simply followed after that.”
After graduating from H-K, Conor believed that he would mostly be running in local events and for fun. He didn’t think that the times he produced in high school would be good enough to compete on the collegiate level. However, somewhere in the back of his mind, Conor couldn’t quite give up on the thought of continuing his career in college.
“Personally, I’ve just always loved running right from when I started at H-K. So, for me, it’s never been that hard to be motivated,” Conor says. “I set a goal from the beginning in high school and that was to always improve and always be determined. I do it every day, because I love it.”
Following his freshman season with the H-K boys’ soccer team, Conor approached cross country and track coach Matt Diglio about becoming a runner at the high school. That conversation proved the beginning of Conor’s fruitful journey with the Cougars.
Conor had a solid freshman season with the indoor track squad and then joined the outdoor team in the spring. Conor focused on the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and also ran in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
However, Conor really made his mark during his sophomore season with the cross country team. Head Coach Matt Diglio was impressed with Conor’s studious approach when it came to traversing the trails.
“Conor became a student of the sport,” says Diglio. “He took the time to learn everything about most of the top runners the team would be competing against. He studied every aspect he needed to improve and constantly get better.”
Conor’s diligence paid dividends for both himself and the Cougars. In his sophomore campaign, H-K captured the Class SS state title with Conor taking 15th place behind a time of 18:06 on the 5K (3.1 miles) course at Wickham Park.
The Cougars also won the Class SS title the following year. Conor ran a time of 17:36 to finish in 12th place at the meet.
In his senior season, H-K took home another state title with Conor once again placing 12th, this time lowering his mark to 17:27.
Conor and his squad never lost a dual-meet during his cross country career at H-K. Conor was a three-time All-Shoreline Conference selection and also made the Class SS All-State Team in his junior and senior seasons.
Conor still keeps in touch with several of his teammates from those championship clubs.
“I came back to Connecticut after my freshman year and increased my running, getting up to 60 to 70 miles per week,” Conor says. “Several of my old running buddies, including Andrew [Meredith] and Jonah [Spector], joined me. I also spent hours on the track doing speed work.”
All of this effort helped Conor earn a spot as a walk-on with the cross country team at Clemson. Conor recently competed in his first collegiate meet, finishing in 44th place with a time of 26:39 for the 8K (4.89 miles) course to help the Tigers defeat Virginia Tech. Last week, Conor participated in his second meet when Clemson ran in the Joe Piane Invitational at Notre Dame.
“The team’s success, just like ours at H-K, will come with pack running,” says Conor.
The weather conditions along the Carolina coast are much different than in New England at this time of year. As a result, Conor has had to adjust accordingly.
“It was 96 on October 2 when we were training before heading out to South Bend,” Conor says. “It’s also not as hilly down here, but they have these wonderful long, dirt roads where you can run in a scenic environment.”
As a member of the team at Clemson, Conor is testing his mettle in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which is one of the most competitive leagues in all of college sports.
“Our goal is to finish in the top tier in the ACC,” says Conor. “It’s a big challenge.”
Coach Diglio feels proud of Conor for solidifying his spot with a Division I program. Diglio says that he isn’t the least bit surprised with Conor’s accomplishment.
“Conor has that insatiable drive and determination,” Diglio says. “He proved to himself and to all of the runners here that he could accomplish what he set out to do.”