Many people may think they have learned everything there is to know about Coach Richard McDonald, who took over full time in 2012 as the cross country and track coach after being hired on in the spring of 2011 to build the distance program for cross country. However, many people don’t know that McDonald was once a collegiate athlete at East Carolina University and has coached six state champions, among other things.
McDonald is a former collegiate athlete at ECU, where he ran cross country and indoor/outdoor track. McDonald says he ran mostly the two-mile or 5,000 meter events while at ECU.
“Running at ECU was a great experience,” McDonald said. “My freshman year I was fourth on the cross country team and for three weeks had the second fastest two-mile indoor track time at ECU ever.”
After running collegiately at ECU and receiving a teaching degree in P.E. and social studies, McDonald decided to coach. He says his motivation for coaching came from a mentor who he looked up to, coach John Williams from Pinecrest High School.
“[Coach Williams] was a heck of a man; he inspired me to go into coaching,” McDonald said. “I could never begin to do what he did for people as a coach.”
Most people don’t realize why McDonald is so dedicated to building the running program here at Northwood. McDonald says reason number one is due to the nature of the competition Northwood has to face in the conference. That, however, is not his only motivation.
“I have the time to be out here now that I am retired and not raising a family anymore,” said McDonald, who has a 27-year-old son named Zach and an 18-year-old daughter named Alexandra. “A good distance runner has to train 11 months out of the year. If I expect them to do it, I have to do my part and be the example in being out here. I can’t run with them anymore, but I can be out here. I have the time for that now and it gives me a lot of fulfillment.”
McDonald, who is 64 years old, has had a long successful coaching career. In over 30 years of coaching, he has coached six state champions along with many team conference championships. He coached at Pinecrest High School for 18 years, coached for five years at East Chapel Hill and coached for three years at the North Carolina School of Science and Math.
Since McDonald has taken over both cross country and track at Northwood, he says there has been a steady increase in the number of kids running. McDonald said there is still much work that needs to be done to build the program to where he wants it to be. He has some very fond memories from his time at Northwood.
“One of my favorite things has been the development of kids such as [seniors] Max [Kerscher], Tristan [Cochran] and Noble [LaRocco-Masi],” McDonald said. “They have really come a long way since their freshman year.”
McDonald has made many impacts here at Northwood even outside the realms of athletics.
“Coach McDonald is like a second father to me; he constantly checks up on me and really personalizes his coaching to fit each person,” Kerscher said. “He is a really great guy.”
– By Jacob Sipe