Bangor High School senior Daniel McCarthy has established himself as one of the state’s top interscholastic runners, as evidenced by his victory over a field of 674 runners at Saturday’s Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions in Belfast.
Such long-distance success doesn’t necessarily jive with his introduction to track and field in middle school, when McCarthy competed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, high jump and discus.
But his transition to lengthier races not only has led to considerable success, it’s expected to lead him into the NCAA Division I college running world given McCarthy’s recent verbal commitment to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. next fall.
“First of all, it’s an incredible school,” McCarthy said. “It’s in the capital of the free world, which is pretty awesome, academically it’s amazing and the program is unbelievable as well.”
McCarthy emailed numerous schools in search of a college destination that matched his academic and athletic goals and said he also considered attending Boston College, UMass Amherst, Tufts, UConn and some schools in the Carolinas.
“But I decided Georgetown was the place for me,” he said.
Georgetown has not been an unfamiliar destination for Maine running standouts over the years. That includes Hoyas’ fifth-year cross country head coach Brandon Bonsey, a Falmouth High School product who ran for Georgetown from 2004 to 2009.
Other Maine natives to matriculate at Georgetown include Sanford’s Rachel Schneider, who competed in the 5,000-meter run at this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo; Levi Miller of Belfast, who earned All-America status for the Hoyas at the 2008 NCAA Division I cross country championships; and Aleta Looker of Ellsworth, a middle-distance standout who competed at Georgetown from 2014 to 2018.
McCarthy currently is focusing on the 3.1-mile high school cross country distance, and he’s the only Maine high school runner to run that 5-kilometer distance in less than 15 minutes, 30 seconds so far this season with a school-record 15:28.28 last month at a race in Gorham.
“[Distance running] is relatively new to me, which is pretty awesome because it keeps me from burning out and keeps me enjoying it,” said McCarthy, who breaks up his cross country and outdoor track seasons by playing ice hockey for Bangor during the winter. “I like to think I have a lot of improvement left in the sport.”
Where McCarthy might specialize as a collegiate runner remains to be determined.
“I’m still figuring out where my niche is,” he said. “I really enjoy the 5K but I think where I really might shine is in the 800 and mile, that range.”
McCarthy finished eighth at the 2018 Class A state championships as a freshman making his cross country debut, then placed fifth as a sophomore before last fall’s state meet was canceled due to COVID-19.
In outdoor track, he finished seventh in the 1,600 as a freshman at the 2019 Class A state championships, then last spring placed third at 800 meters with a time of 1:58.21 while also running on Bangor’s state championship 4×800 relay team and second-place 4×400 squad.
“Dan has progressed nicely over the last four years,” Bangor cross country coach Roger Huber said. “Another couple of years of maturity and physical growth and being under the watchful eye of a good college program, I don’t know where he tops out.”