Page 10-The Michigan Daily- Thursday, October 31, 1991
McKown redefines victory
Wolverine runner wins with persistence, effort
Joe McKown has battled many ailments during his career at Michigan.
by Bruce Inosencio
Daily Sports Writer
In a sport where only the first
runner to cross the finish line wins,
it's ironic that Joe McKown feels
victorious based solely on the effort
he's put into cross country.
"He gives 120 percent every race.
Every second of every race he gives
his all," men's cross country coach
Ron Warhurst said.
Strangely enough, McKown
didn't think he would need to work
so hard just to stay at Michigan.
McKown graduated in 1987 from
Fremont, Ohio's Kansas Lakota
High School. There, he established
his running talents with personal
bests of 9:05 in the two-mile run
and 15:27 in the cross-country 5,000
Winning the Ohio Class AA
state cross country meet and the
two mile in the state track meet his
senior year, McKown graduated
with lofty expectations in college.
However, the transition was diffi-
cult and McKown soon realized he
would not be a major factor on the
team his first year.
"I expected to be able to come in
and contribute right away," he said.
"Instead, I came in here and ended up
getting sick in my first cross coun-
In that race, McKown was less
than a half mile from the finish line
when he began to run in circles and
become disoriented. His first year
did not improve; McKown suffered
a stress fracture and three broken
bones in his foot for track season.
After so many problems, it
wouldn't be much of a surprise if
McKown dropped running alto-
gether. He didn't quit, but admits he
considered the idea after his sopho-
"My first two years went really
bad. I didn't run well and it was
very discouraging," he said. "After
my success in high school, I was
forced to work much harder. I was
putting in tons more effort but the
results just weren't coming."
Not only was his lack of success
weighing heavily on his mind, but he
was still experiencing medical
"I saw all kinds of physicians to
see what was wrong with me and
nothing was really determined," he
said. "Everyone kept pointing to
asthma, but nothing was really de-
But McKown continued to run
out of love for the sport.
"I kept on even though the ad-
justment from high school to col-
lege was rough," he said. "I don't
think my body was mature enough
to make that much of a transition."
Because the practices at Michigan
required far more work than those
in high school, McKown's body was
constantly run down his first two
years. Not faulting the coaches, he
felt a normal person's body should
be able to handle, the workouts, de-
spite perpetually beginning his races
McKown still faces some prob-
lemns this season. He has finished a
couple races this year complaining
of dizziness and disorientation, but
has progressed steadily.
In order to overcome so many
obstacles in his years at Michigan,
McKown has been forced to adjust
his goals. "All the way through my
sophomore year I was super compet-
itive and I just wanted to win, win,
win. But, I was so far back I didn't
have a chance at all.
"I was used to winning every-
thing in high school and all of a
sudden I get to college and I can't
even break into our top 12,"
McKown said. "Now I can look at a
race and realize that maybe I didn't
run a great race this weekend, but
it's a heck of a lot better than two
With a 24:56 at the Michigan
State Invitational earlier this sea-
son, McKown can finally see his ef-
forts paying off. And while his role
in past meets hasn't been as a scorer,
McKown is confident that he has
the talent to move into that role.
"If I hit a really good race I
know I would be a contributing fac-
tor - hopefully that will happen at
the Big Ten meet," he said.
"A lot of people have really
stood by me and have thought that if
I ever got healthy I would be a con-
tributing factor," McKown said.
"Coach Warhurst could have easily
singled me out and said that I was
never going to develop, but he
hasn't. He's really helped me out
this year by adjusting the workouts
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"After my second year I got oq
of the vicious circle of trying harder
in workouts and wearing myself
out. I finally stepped back and saw
that I just had to do this for fun,"
Warhurst truly appreciates
"Joe was a tremendous talent as
a freshman just because he's so
smooth and efficient when he runs,"
he said. "I just feel so good abo*
him having the success he has had
this year because of the problems
he's had over the past four years.
He's truly been an inspiration to the
rest of the team."
There was some doubt that
McKown would even compete this
season. "I wasn't sure he'd even be
here this year, and he's come out and
finished in our top five or six spot
consistently this year," Warhurs
said. "I think after four or five years
he's learned when to push and when
not to push. He could have quit
three years ago, but he didn't. He
just kept plugging away at it.
"Sometimes the guys will think
they're having a rough time and then
they see someone like Joe come out
and give 120 percent every race, ev-
ery second of every race."
McKown hopes to continue t
give the extra effort after he stops
running for Michigan. McKown
will be in the School of Pharmacy
for two and a half years after this
semester, and thinks he will proba-
bly keep running road races on
weekends after he graduates.
"I love to run," McKown said.
"And I can see myself running long
after I leave Michigan."A
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