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All the small things: Brendan McCarthy’s attention to details draws coach’s praise

Senior captain Brendan McCarthy is one of the best runners on the UNH men’s cross country team, as he has finished first for the team in two of four meets this season.
But McCarthy, who ran a personal-best time of 25 minutes, 35 seconds in UNH’s 8-kilometer race at Boston College this past Friday, does not lead his team solely with his meet performances. McCarthy guides the Wildcats with constant and rigorous work ethic and attention to detail.
One of only three seniors on the team, McCarthy said it is his responsibility to teach younger runners how to improve every single day.
“I make sure to help the younger guys know the proper way to go through your day and make sure everyone is staying healthy,” McCarthy said. “It’s really a focus on the little things I try to get the younger guys to follow too, because all of that makes us better as runners, like lifting and doing all of those things.”
McCarthy lectures his teammates daily to stay on top of their nutrition, hydration and weightlifting – three beneficial training tools McCarthy said runners often overlook.
When asked about McCarthy’s leadership qualities, UNH head coach Jim Boulanger raved about the captain’s focus on little details.
“To become a solid distance runner, you have to have solid work ethic,” he said. “All the kids are motivated to run but he reminds people of what they have to do to be successful.”
Before coming to UNH, McCarthy ran cross country at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Mass. McCarthy said he did not take hydration and nutrition seriously during his time competing in high school.
But when Boulanger and UNH gave McCarthy a chance in Durham, McCarthy said he completely altered his training approach to pay more attention to taking care of his body outside of just getting miles in. McCarthy now has a heightened sense of what he eats and how much water he drinks each day.
“He’s gone from running 17-minute 5Ks in high school to 14-minute races now,” Boulanger said. “To become a solid distance runner you have to have solid work ethic, and Brendan brings that passion and desire,” Boulanger said. “[McCarthy] preaches to the team that they have to work hard every year to become better.”
McCarthy has also emerged as a vocal leader for the Wildcats, as he is not afraid to tell runners if they are in the wrong. For example, each runner has to wear the same UNH-themed shirts and shorts for warm-up clothes before meets.
Boulanger said McCarthy has no problem stepping up and setting someone straight if they do not adhere to the team’s expectations.
“He has become a vocal leader and one by example as well,” Boulanger said. “He helps keep the team organized and has handled the leadership role very well. He’s a business major so someone should look to hire him.”
McCarthy said he emphasizes the dress code before meets in order to upkeep the sense of community and excellence associated with the program.
“Coach [Boulanger] is very big on having New Hampshire pride, which is important,” he said. “So I definitely stress that to freshmen who might show up in just a regular sweatshirt or something to let them know to always wear New Hampshire stuff to keep the tradition and pride going.”
Another characteristic of McCarthy’s that makes him a strong leader is his toughness. The captain showed his grittiness last weekend during the Boston-to-Coast meet. McCarthy fell behind into 100th position early in the race and fought back to finish 91st overall.
Setting an example as one of the team’s top runners, that toughness rubs off on McCarthy’s teammates.
“That’s the kind of toughness he brings to every meet,” Boulanger said. “When you’re running five miles in a five-minute pace, it’s going to hurt.”
Boulanger said McCarthy’s toughness may be a bit deceiving after first meeting him.
“When you meet him, he’s very nice and jovial,” he said. “You look at him and you think, is he really going to be tough enough?” he said. “He’s a very, very tough runner. I think that’s what most people don’t notice.”
McCarthy and the Wildcats next compete at the New England Cross Country Championships on Oct. 10 at Franklin Park in Boston.

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