Connor Darlington was prepared to go far away for university. His plan all along was to get a full-ride scholarship from a good school in the United States, and to run with some of the best collegiate runners in North America in the NCAA.
This was something that was not out of reach for him, as he was always a stand-out runner in high school, winning numerous OFSAA medals, and qualifying for the Canadian junior cross country team as an 18-year old.
“For the most part throughout high school, I was thinking of going to the States,” said Darlington.
Darlington had offers from Southern Utah University, University of Missouri, University of Mississippi, Liberty University, and Iona College. He ended up getting a full-ride scholarship with Iona College, and signed there, as he felt like the school was a good fit for him.
“Iona was my top choice. I signed there confidently, expecting to go the States. And it was only two months later that I decided maybe Canada is right for me.”
For Darlington, it was not the coaches, or the college itself that was the problem. He simply just did not know if going to the States on a full-ride scholarship was the right choice for him.
“I did an official visit. It was great. I loved the school, the coaches were good. I think a big fear amongst Canadians going to the states is that you are going to get a coach who is pretty intense, they will break you down, but these coaches were very good, and very prepared to work with me.”
But Darlington is the type of runner that has suffered from several injuries in the past, and was hoping to be able to receive individual attention from the coaches. This is hard to come by in the States, where exceptionally talented athletes come in numbers.
It wasn’t all about the pressure for Darlington. At the end of the day, it came down to his injury problems in the past, and the expectations that go along with a full-ride scholarship that made him look more seriously at Canadian schools.
“In a full-ride, there is an expectation that you perform and train and give them the results as an investment in the athlete and in the school. There is a little bit of pressure. I wasn’t too concerned about the pressure, but I knew that I am the type of runner that needs individual attention and I have had a past of injuries before. I wanted to make sure I was in an environment that would not have me injured and gave me some freedom to do what I need to do. That is a big concern for the [United States].”
The running program at McMaster turned out to be the best fit for Darlington, as he knew that he would have the freedom to train how he wanted, would receive great coaching from Rory Sneyd, Paula Schnurr and Pete Self, and at the same time, would not run into the kind of injury problems that he feels he may have suffered in the States.
“Going into first year, I wasn’t 100 percent healthy. In the time, I have been able to overcome [injuries] and take the steps that I need to be healthy. Right now, I am probably 95 percent healthy, only small things, which is pretty good as far as injuries go.”
Other than the individual attention, a huge part of Darlington’s decision to come to McMaster was the fact that he started to gear his training towards triathlons, and knew that there were facilities here that could help him with this. He also had teammates from triathlon-training that were on the Marauders cross country and track team, and convinced him to come.
“The only reason I started to change was because I started to cross-train more and I got interested in triathlons, that led me to look at Canadian options because triathlons are bigger, as far as University goes, in Canada than it is in the States. That made me start to look more locally this side of the border,” said Darlington.
“The thing that made me come to McMaster is definitely the combination of having the coaches and also the triathlon teammates which would be easily accessible at McMaster. I was on the fence cialis online between running and triathlons and I knew it had the combination of good running coaches and the right facilities to train for triathlons” added Darlington.
He also liked the fact that there was not a lot of risk involved with his decision to come to McMaster, compared with his decision to go to the States.
“It was the best of both worlds with low risk. Going to the [United States] you have more risk involved, as money is on the line,” added Darlington.
With the addition of Darlington on the roster, the Marauders have been able to shock some people, winning their first OUA medal in years. Darlington feels as though this is a sign of things to come for the future of the men’s running team at McMaster.
“The general trend is that fast teams usually attract faster recruits. I am hoping that with our success this year, we will be able to attract even more recruits,” Darlington said.
As for the team currently, Darlington feels as though they too will improve even more so than they have already, because of their youth.
“As far as the team goes, we are a young team, most of our guys are in their second or third eligibility year with the exception of a couple…I think that we can recruit more talent. That has been the case with the Guelph team as well, they have created a power house and they attract more runners. I think [McMaster] will do that as well.”
Before Darlington thinks about the possibilities of next season, however, this season still isn’t over yet.
The Marauders men’s team will look to capture their first CIS medal in a very long time this weekend, In London Ont. at the CIS Championships. This is a race that Darlington feels he is prepared for.
“I have never been as excited about a team medal as I have been for this race because I think that it is a genuine possibility,” said Darlington.
“I am hoping to land in the Top 15 and hopefully that bodes well for our team to follow up with a couple low scores. I think we can get a medal.”
As for his decision to stay and compete in Canada, as opposed to the United States, Darlington could not be happier with it.
“Sometimes I think about the alternatives, as I am sure everyone does. But I think staying in Canada was the best fit for me.”