Senior Gerald McCarthy, a blind student at ENC, finished his third and final season of cross country by competing in his first race with the cross country team.
On Nov. 8, McCarthy ran in the 15th Annual Edaville Rail Run in South Carver, Mass. with three other cross country members.
McCarthy joined cross country in fall of 2012 during his sophomore year. While teammates practiced by running outside, McCarthy always ran during the same time in the weight room on a treadmill.
While he did not compete in any races until his senior year, McCarthy traveled to many meets to cheer on and support his cross country teammates.
At the end of the 2013 season, McCarthy began to run parts of the courses as a non-competing runner with cross country coach William Timmins to guide him.
“We would run part of the course, either while the others were running in the meet or after, and I actually felt safer running after the meet was over,” McCarthy said.
Moving from treadmill to terrain was a challenging transition for McCarthy.
“It was difficult… especially on terrains like Gordon where there were roots and rocks.”
In this past season, Coach Timmins and McCarthy set a goal for him to compete in at least one meet.
A few setbacks prevented McCarthy from competing in a collegiate meet, however. One issue was that men run five mile races, which seemed too big of a challenge for his first meet.
The second issue was that, according to CCC rules, the visually impaired runners cannot run the race with a cane or a person to physically hold on to. Only tethers, a rope attaching the two people so that one person can guide but without any physical contact, are allowed in collegiate races.
This was a difficult adjustment for McCarthy, so he decided to compete in a 2-mile road race, open to the public and allowing a cane and physical guide.
McCarthy is grateful that Coach Timmins made these adjustments in order for him to race with his teammates at least once.
“I’m glad that he tried to meet my needs in a way that wasn’t burdensome,” McCarthy explained. “Even if we didn’t make it to our primary goal, he still made the season a fun one.”
Coach Timmins has had experience working with a visually impaired runner in past years.
“These three years on the cross country team have been such a wonderful experience… it’s been a blessing,” McCarthy shared.
He made many friendships with runners on the team, getting to know them through conversation and traveling to meets with them.
“[Gerald’s] been a huge source of encouragement for the team since I’ve been on it,” senior Daniel Cantrell said, “He’s an extremely hard worker and always puts the team first. He’s basically the man.”
McCarthy suggests running cross country for many kinds of people.
“For those who are blind or visually impaired, or for anyone who wants to be on a team, but not as competitive as [other sports], then cross country is the best option,” McCarthy said.
In the future, McCarthy said that he will run more road races, especially if it is for a cause that he “holds very dear to [his] heart.”
For instance, the Quincy Lion’s Club hosts an annual 5K Run/Walk for Sight, which McCarthy has participated in before.
“That is a race I will always do to raise money for individuals like myself,” McCarthy shared.