McConnochie stepping up the distance

COMPETITION AND RELAXATION: Grace McConnochie relaxes at the beach in Gisborne. She missed the Gisborne beaches when she was in the United States. Picture by Liam Clayton
Grace McConnochie races in University of P)ortland colours in 2017. Picture supplied

BACK in Gisborne after pursuing athletics at United States universities, Grace McConnochie is stepping up to longer running distances.

Typically a 5000-metre or 10,000m runner during her stint in the US college system, the 24-year-old wants to see how she goes in half marathons and marathons.

It’s been going well so far.

McConnochie ran her first half marathon, the Rotorua Off-Road Half Marathon, this month and won the women’s race convincingly. She was more than 20 minutes ahead of the next female finisher, Maria Page, from Tauranga.

McConnochie came third overall, two seconds behind the man who was second, Paul Crowhurst, from Auckland. Reporoa runner Paul Voss won.

Now training for a marathon in May — lining up either the Rotorua or Hawke’s Bay events — McConnochie aims to get better with pacing, keeping her speed up for long stretches.

“I’d like to represent New Zealand,” she said.

“I haven’t done that. That’s definitely the goal.”

The former Gisborne Girls’ High School student took up an athletics scholarship at the University of Portland, Oregon, where she studied mechanical engineering for four years.

A highlight was finishing 11th at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) track and field nationals in the 10,000m in 2017, slashing 27 seconds off her personal best.

McConnochie then started a masters thesis at Boise State University in Idaho, studying for a year and one semester there. The thesis examines the effectiveness of various designs of implants that stabilise knee joints.

She is completing her masters in New Zealand and is due to present a defence of her findings this weekend.

McConnochie said she enjoyed the team environment in the US universities.

She trained with teammates and had ready access to physiotherapy, massage and outstanding facilities.

“It was easy to access everything you need.”

It was quite a contrast to growing up in Gisborne, where she initially didn’t have a team or a coach.

One time at a track meet her race was moved to an earlier start time and she didn’t know.

“I showed up at the start line just as they were about to start the race and didn’t have time to put on my spikes, so I ran the 3000m barefoot.

“I had some impressive blood blisters afterwards.”

Among the highlights of her time in the US was travelling with her team across the country to competitions. Memorable experiences included racing at Stanford University against Olympic triathlon gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen and qualifying for the national cross-country championships during her last two seasons.

“The depth of competition in the States is amazing,” McConnochie said.

“It was great to be able to train and race at such a high level to help me improve and reach my potential.”

The start of her sixth year in the US was the hardest part of her journey.

She was eligible to compete in college athletics competitions for five years, so was required to focus more on her academic studies after that.

“I didn’t have a team to train with and on the academic side it was the most intense time. It was only for a semester and it was good to finish it off at home.”

McConnochie started running while at Mangapapa School and is a former Tairawhiti Rising Legend.

She was a New Zealand 16-and-under cross-country champion, North Island secondary schools 3000m champion and a bronze medallist in the national under-20 cross-country championships.

Since her return to New Zealand, McConnochie has picked up part-time work at the Bikeys shop in Gisborne.

She has been back for three months and would like to apply what she learned in her studies to sport one day.

At the Rotorua off-road event, McConnochie was second overall for most of the race. The course was congested at the final corner, preventing her from holding her position.

“It was a technical downhill,” she said.

“I was pretty happy with the result and time.”

Gisborne’s Steve Morrow, 44, came third in the men’s race.

“I’m just an old soccer player, to be honest,” he said.

He had taken harriers more seriously in the past four years, since giving up football.

BACK in Gisborne after pursuing athletics at United States universities, Grace McConnochie is stepping up to longer running distances.

Typically a 5000-metre or 10,000m runner during her stint in the US college system, the 24-year-old wants to see how she goes in half marathons and marathons.

It’s been going well so far.

McConnochie ran her first half marathon, the Rotorua Off-Road Half Marathon, this month and won the women’s race convincingly. She was more than 20 minutes ahead of the next female finisher, Maria Page, from Tauranga.

McConnochie came third overall, two seconds behind the man who was second, Paul Crowhurst, from Auckland. Reporoa runner Paul Voss won.

Now training for a marathon in May — lining up either the Rotorua or Hawke’s Bay events — McConnochie aims to get better with pacing, keeping her speed up for long stretches.

“I’d like to represent New Zealand,” she said.

“I haven’t done that. That’s definitely the goal.”

The former Gisborne Girls’ High School student took up an athletics scholarship at the University of Portland, Oregon, where she studied mechanical engineering for four years.

A highlight was finishing 11th at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) track and field nationals in the 10,000m in 2017, slashing 27 seconds off her personal best.

McConnochie then started a masters thesis at Boise State University in Idaho, studying for a year and one semester there. The thesis examines the effectiveness of various designs of implants that stabilise knee joints.

She is completing her masters in New Zealand and is due to present a defence of her findings this weekend.

McConnochie said she enjoyed the team environment in the US universities.

She trained with teammates and had ready access to physiotherapy, massage and outstanding facilities.

“It was easy to access everything you need.”

It was quite a contrast to growing up in Gisborne, where she initially didn’t have a team or a coach.

One time at a track meet her race was moved to an earlier start time and she didn’t know.

“I showed up at the start line just as they were about to start the race and didn’t have time to put on my spikes, so I ran the 3000m barefoot.

“I had some impressive blood blisters afterwards.”

Among the highlights of her time in the US was travelling with her team across the country to competitions. Memorable experiences included racing at Stanford University against Olympic triathlon gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen and qualifying for the national cross-country championships during her last two seasons.

“The depth of competition in the States is amazing,” McConnochie said.

“It was great to be able to train and race at such a high level to help me improve and reach my potential.”

The start of her sixth year in the US was the hardest part of her journey.

She was eligible to compete in college athletics competitions for five years, so was required to focus more on her academic studies after that.

“I didn’t have a team to train with and on the academic side it was the most intense time. It was only for a semester and it was good to finish it off at home.”

McConnochie started running while at Mangapapa School and is a former Tairawhiti Rising Legend.

She was a New Zealand 16-and-under cross-country champion, North Island secondary schools 3000m champion and a bronze medallist in the national under-20 cross-country championships.

Since her return to New Zealand, McConnochie has picked up part-time work at the Bikeys shop in Gisborne.

She has been back for three months and would like to apply what she learned in her studies to sport one day.

At the Rotorua off-road event, McConnochie was second overall for most of the race. The course was congested at the final corner, preventing her from holding her position.

“It was a technical downhill,” she said.

“I was pretty happy with the result and time.”

Gisborne’s Steve Morrow, 44, came third in the men’s race.

“I’m just an old soccer player, to be honest,” he said.

He had taken harriers more seriously in the past four years, since giving up football.

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