Track & field: McLaughlin retains lofty goals for season’s finale

Boulder’s Erin McLaughlin has quietly gone about her business while devloping into one of the top prep distance runners in the state

Erin McLaughlin may just be another face in the pack if you’re not from Boulder County. The Boulder High senior has turned heads in local cross country and distance track races for the past few years, but she doesn’t go out of her way to race big national meets.

That will likely change in the near future while running for the nationally ranked collegiate program at Cornell, but as it stands, all the competition McLaughlin needs is right in her own backyard.

“I’ve never really made (national meets) a big priority, because right here in Boulder the local competition is excellent anyway,” McLaughlin said this week in advance of Saturday’s Boulder County Invitational. “I don’t have to go very far to get the very best.”

For grins, McLaughlin did compete in the USATF Cross Country Championships that were held in Boulder this past February, and she finished 13th in juniors — shedding light on how solid a runner she is, in fact, on a national level.

McLaughlin has been running ever since she could slap on a pair of shoes. She swam, too, starting when she was a five and lasting until her sophomore year (and yes, she was a distance freestyle specialist). It was in the spring of that school year she decided to focus on running.

Her senior year has gone by at a rapid pace, and after a second-place finish at the Class 5A cross country state meet and a good winter of training, McLaughlin is looking forward to peaking at the right time in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter races.

It might not be easy, though. Early this season, she has been dealing with an issue in her hip that threw her stride out of whack, and it’s been a road to recovery ever since.

That hasn’t taken away from the goals she’s set for herself, nor from her potential, BHS distance coach Mark Muggleton said.

“She’s a worker and she loves to train,” he said. “I really feel right now she’s in that state of intense training, and she’s done all the work needed to get back. I think we’ll see her peak probably in the next couple of weeks.”

“So far my times aren’t quite what I was hoping for, but I think I’m on the way back,” McLaughlin said, her top mile time this season being 5 minutes, 12.77 seconds. “For a long time I’ve wanted to break the 5-minute mile and 11 minutes in the two-mile. I continue to train with those goals in mind.

“Track has always been my favorite season, and I want to make the most of it, just have fun with my team in workouts and in racing.”

Part of her training has included running 75-second 400’s to keep the pace she wants in the mile. She needs to shave slightly less than three seconds off her personal best (5:02.95) to attain that goal.

“It gets harder and harder to drop times, so at this point, dropping one or two seconds is definitely something to be proud of,” she said.

Surely, her future at Cornell looks bright, too. Signed primarily for cross country, McLaughlin is ready to tackle all three seasons of competition. Her big leap will be running indoor, an endeavor she hasn’t really tried much to this point.

For now, she’ll continue to pursue personal bests, likely being well in front of the pack at the state finals at Jeffco Stadium in May.

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