Cross country runner Griffin McCauley ’22 took fifth place in the New England XC Championships last Saturday in Boston. He finished the eight-kilometer race with a time of 24:57.4, narrowly beating out teammate Miles Mullins ’25, who had a time of 24:58.9. McCauley and Mullins placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in a field of 161 runners. They helped lead Brown’s men’s crosscountry team to a third place finish out of 24 teams — the Bears’ best showing at the meet since 2016.
In recognition of McCauley’s performance and high placement this weekend, The Brown Daily Herald has chosen him as its Athlete of the Week.
Herald: What has it been like racing this year after a year when you weren’t able to race at all?
McCauley: It was definitely a bit of an adjustment at the start. Most of us haven’t been able to race cross country for two years now. It definitely took a little bit to remember what that feeling of pain was like and remember how to embrace it and savor it. But I think that we’ve finally hit our stride. We’re starting to get into a rhythm; We’re adjusting to the new coaching staff. We went through a transition at the very start of the semester that we hadn’t really anticipated, so there was a little bit of time trying to figure out the new training routines. But I think that we’ve really been able to come together and just really buy into the process and enjoy each other’s company and are starting to make really strong steps in the right direction to be able to perform highly in the Ivy League Championships this year.
How have you been able to grow as a team over the past year?
It’s been really exciting just to see how the sport has grown across the country in the past year, because it is a sport that you can do without facilities (or) other people, but also something you can do outdoors. It was really great that last year, when we went remote, we were able to gather a group of guys to train in Colorado together. We spent the fall of 2020 in Colorado living in an Airbnb together working at altitude training, and that was great in terms of building a culture with those guys. Since then, we’ve been able to translate that (culture) to the rest of the team. (We’re) really excited to be back together on campus working toward some big goals that we have for ourselves. It’s certainly been a (great) group of guys (and) we’ve been able to really band together and buy into something that’s greater than ourselves. It’s exciting to see what sort of results we can produce.
What are your and the team’s goals for the rest of the season?
We’ve got the Ivy League Championships coming up in two and a half weeks. I’d say as a team we’re really hoping to be in the top half of the league, which would be the best performance that our program has had in quite some time. Individually, I know me and a few of the other guys (on) the team are hoping to be pretty high up in the Ivy League Championships. It would be really incredible to place in the top ten and be all-Ivy. But it’s an extremely deep year; a lot of guys in the league have been able to either take gap years or train remotely at altitude. We’ve seen some really huge developments in the league in terms of the quality of runners. I think just being in the top of the (championships), whether that’s the top ten or the top 20, would be (a) really exciting accomplishment.
What did it mean for you to place so high at the New England Championships?
New England was a great experience. We have been getting back into the racing experience over the first couple weeks and months of the fall, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. We really did a great job of running as a pack (and) finding each other out (on the course). (Cross country) can kind of feel like a very individual sport a lot of times. Knowing that your teammates are there with you is one of the most exciting and motivational things when it comes to racing. It was just great to be out there with (my) teammates running as a group and being able to push each other when the race got really hard toward the middle and latter stages. But me placing fifth was fantastic and then even more (impressively, Mullins) placed sixth, which was a really impressive day for him. He has a lot of potential going forward that we’re excited to see.
Do you think that having the time off from racing has benefitted you at all as a runner?
I think for a lot of guys, it definitely made (them) have to reevaluate (their) priorities and made (them) have to determine whether running was something (they) were truly passionate about outside of racing. Some people find (racing) exciting, and that’s the most appealing thing about (running). Other people find racing scary or nerve-wracking. I would definitely say that it did provide a sense of just going out and running for the enjoyment of the sport and not feeling the pressure of competition. But it is certainly exciting to be back in a more high-pressure environment where we’re now getting to really test ourselves and see where (our) potential lies. This past year has been great for building foundations, building team culture, developing relationships with our friends and appreciating the sport for what it is. And now we’re able to convert that into actions and strong performances.