Q&A: Former Wisconsin Morgan McDonald on Olympic Postponement

Jake Kocorowski

Earlier this week, AllBadgers.com published an article on how a couple of current Wisconsin track and field standouts -- Olli Hoare and Alicia Monson -- reacted to the news of the Olympics being postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday afternoon, we caught up with a former Badger, Morgan McDonald, to get his thoughts on the newly rescheduled Olympiad. 

For those that do not know McDonald's resume, and it is quite long as seen on his UWBadgers.com profile page, he is a four-time NCAA champion that include titles in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. The Australian, now as a professional, is a seven-time All-American who showcased his domination in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, the latter of which he would have attempted to qualify for this year.

According to McDonald, he was in Madison when he heard the news about the games being postponed and received a call from Hoare. His reaction in his words, were "a little bit of a sense of relief."

"There are a couple of reasons for that," McDonald said. "The first one is that, there'd been a lot of rumors about the postponement. We kind of thought it was gonna happen, but it was just so much uncertainty. I think trying to train amidst that uncertainty was quite difficult mentally in other ways. So having like that sense of certainty that, 'OK so it's getting postponed. It's next year,' that was actually pretty nice. 

"Then the other thing for me personally is that this would be my first year pro and so I've had a bit of a transition. Honestly I've made a couple of mistakes here and there, and so I've had a couple of injuries. To be honest, I think I would have been fine, but it hasn't been the exact build up that I like, that I would have wanted. For me like, it's people that are a lot worse injured than me that this helps more, but for me having an extra year wasn't the worst thing. I feel like I can use that time to prepare better than I've done for this year."

Here are some question and answer excerpts from AllBadgers.com's chat with McDonald from earlier this week. The interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

AllBadgers.com: Were you planning on going to the Australian trials?

McDonald: "It's a little bit complicated for how to qualify for a country like Australia, compared to say America. America is simple because it's more deep so there's more people hitting that Olympic qualifier time. For America, it's like there are trials, and you have to go to the trials and be top three -- and then you qualify -- but Australia doesn't necessarily have three people hitting the qualifier in every event. So you don't actually have to run the trials, provided that you can hit the qualifying time and then you can still get selected of that. The 5K (5,000-meter) trials was actually at the start of February, and so I didn't go back for it because I was a little bit hurt at the time. So it didn't really make sense to me to do that. So my path to qualification was going to be by running races here in America and possibly Europe and trying to hit like the qualifier time to make it. That was pretty much all I had to do."

AllBadgers.com: If the pandemic and other circumstances weren't going on right now, what would be your normal timeline?

"There's the indoor season which I actually couldn't race because of the injury things I had, but then I definitely would be racing the outdoor season, provided everything was going well. That would have been, I would have had a target race for a 5K out at Stanford, which was in the beginning of May. Then leading up to that race in May, I would have maybe raced a couple of times in April. Then into May and then June, I would have certainly been racing. June is kind of when the season goes more to Europe, I guess, so I would have potentially been racing in Europe as well. Those months when you're definitely racing to qualify, and just that's when the outdoor season is taking place so I would have been racing then."

What's next for you?

"So now I've kind of shifted my focus a bit, and rather than being driven by these specific races, I have goals that I would have achieved in my training because I have so much more time to train than ever before. ... Initially, I want to try to get my mileage higher than I ever have been able to before so I just run more miles in a week. So I'm just going to slowly build up to training, hopefully to a higher point than ever before. Then later in the year, I want to kind of get better at gym work, do some more stuff in the gym, which is kind of hard to do when you're like training really hard with just the runnings. 

"I guess it's just been like a shift of focus to really looking at what I think I need to improve on, and to do that right now, rather than looking at specific races and being like, 'I need to get ready for that race.'"