ST. LEO, FLA. – After taking up running as a hobby in third grade, Natalie McCormick never thought she would make it this far.
Having just wrapped up her final year of cross-country, and chasing the end of her track career, McCormick is on the verge of possibly turning pro.
But before she can think about that, she took a reflective mood on her time at Saint Leo University.
“I love cross-country with all my heart, it’s a big part of my life and it always will be,” said McCormick. “It’s definitely hard knowing that my last races for my university experience are done now.”
Staying in Canada would’ve been a great way for McCormick to continue her athletic career, especially after competing in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations. But her dream was always to run at the NCAA level, and competed in the nationals for the past three years.
The nationals are the closest experience she’ll get to competing at the pro level. Another advantage McCormick has is running in two markedly different environments.
In Ontario, cross-country races consisted of running up ski hills, mud, and even snow. One of the first things she had to adjust to when arriving in Florida was running on golf courses instead.
“It was a different kind of terrain, and a different experience for sure,” said McCormick. “But I definitely enjoyed it, it was definitely an eye-opener for runners, especially up north.”
While it sounds like she’d have a much easier time in Saint Leo, many Canadian athletes would have a hard time adjusting to a tropical condition.
McCormick cited that as one of her toughest obstacles to overcome in first year, but it was her close support group — from her teammates to her coaches — that kept her going.
Even though Saint Leo is a level below some of the NCAA’s most prestigious programs, she believes that Division II gave her the best experience she could’ve possibly asked for.
“I was able to not only focus on running, but my educational studies were looked upon just as much as my running was. And I just enjoyed the atmosphere of being a DII athlete.”
While she’s uncertain about her future, McCormick is staying positive. And despite the high pressure that comes with being a professional cross-country athlete, she knows that she’ll never have to work a day in her life.
“I’ll always run for fun no matter what happens.”