Breaking records and breaking down Cady McPhail

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

By LAUREN SEXTON | Sports Reporter

CHELSEA – There’s a moment in every student athlete’s life that defines who they are. For Chelsea senior Cady McPhail, that moment started at a very young age when she fell in love with running.

“I started club track in the third or fourth grade with my elementary school,” McPhail said. “They got me hooked on running from all the fun runs, and then someone suggested that I joined the track team.”

While most can easily burn out after starting a sport at a young age, McPhail committed herself to the sport of competitive running as though it was an art. The variety that comes along with running competitively has kept McPhail engaged in the sport.

“It’s all different,” McPhail said. “It changes every weekend. Just knowing that you can hit New PRs in different events and run times that you’ve never run before is what keeps me going.”

Being the best athlete she can be is something that McPhail takes great pride in. Aside from wearing her favorite cleats to a race or finding the perfect workout for the day, she puts importance on finding the balance between being a student and an athlete. 

“I’m mainly focusing on this year,” McPhail said. “Making sure I’m fueling enough and not necessarily like, yeah, watching what I eat, but making sure I’m getting enough. And before the last race, I ate so much for dinner, and it was all like, good proteins and stuff, lots of good carbs. And I was super fueled. That’s what we’re calling it and fits pretty well.

With today’s students able to access school remotely, McPhail has utilized this accessibility to prioritize her sleep and mental health. 

“It’s been pretty easy to balance it,” McPhail said about her routine. “I’ll wake up and do a few hours of online school. Then, I’ll make sure I’m fueling before my runs or workouts. I guess I’m really just putting an emphasis on what I’m eating every day. I’m making sure I get enough sleep, my friends at school get like six hours of sleep and maybe I’m over here getting like 10 to 12 every night.”

McPhail found the importance of prioritizing her well-being after facing some health complications after her junior year. It was a scary time for McPhail, yet she managed to overcome the adversity in which she faced and become a stronger athlete in the process. Her work towards bettering herself paid off in the end.

“My junior year, which is also like the recruiting season for juniors for track, I ran the entire year iron deficient and anemic,” McPhail said. We didn’t catch it until after the state meet outdoors. So, we were so confused last year why nothing was working. I couldn’t survive distance workouts. I had to just focus on stuff that I could do. It was pretty difficult, but it definitely tested my patience.”

In a short period of time, McPhail became one of the best female runners in the state of Alabama during her sophomore year. Her dedication to her sport in such a short period of time set not only school records, but state records as well. However, her coach Scott Fuqua expresses how McPhail earned everything from all the hard work that she put in as an athlete.

“The biggest thing I would emphasize is that she’s an even better person than she is a runner,” Fuqua. “I’m super proud of her. Just to get through the adversity from last year, a lot of kids would have quit. When it got hard, when they were not as good as they were the previous year, a lot of kids would have gotten discouraged and quit, and that never crossed her mind. She just kept coming back and kept training hard.”

There are so many exciting aspects high school seniors get to endure during the final year of their high school education, selecting a college to continue their education. After a place to continue not only her education but her running career at a collegiate level, McPhail chose Auburn University to be her next team.

“I looked at a good bit of programs across the country,” McPhail said about her search for a college team. “I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go or what conference, in-state or out-of-state. I made my decision in early September, and I only took two visits and so I went to Auburn. I absolutely just loved it, it was like a family. All the coaches showed that they cared about me and wanted me on the team.”

As exciting as a college may be, McPhail’s presence on Chelsea’s team will be a big role to fill. After having the opportunity to work with experienced runners when she was an underclassman, McPhail took on those responsibilities when she entered her final years at Chelsea.

“She’s just the best kid that you could ever ask to coach,” Fuqua said. “She’s just a super hard worker and as good as our men. She’s an incredible runner, but as great of a runner as she is, she’s an even better person. Her leadership helped bring the rest of the team up. She’s just a phenomenal leader.”

In her senior year alone, McPhail and her teammates represented Chelsea in the 7A classification Cross Country State Championship and brought home the first-place trophy for the Hornets. 

“Whenever I finished,” McPhail said. “My teammates were at the finish line just like waiting for all of our girls and watching the scoreboard and the points add up and cheering them on. Once we saw Chelsea had all five runners score, we waited for everyone else and then just celebrated the other teammates to finish in the top five.”

Early on in the indoor track season, McPhail broke yet another record by five whole seconds. While five seconds may not seem like a lot, five seconds is an eternity and a statement win within the track community. McPhail’s recent performance has earned her a recent invitation to a track meet at a national level.

“The girls in Alabama are still pretty national caliber athletes,” McPhail said. “But, I feel like it’s a whole different environment there. It’s girls like I’ve never raced against, and I don’t know their racing style always. It’s a pretty cool atmosphere and honestly, I don’t stress about those meets. I just look forward to having fun and seeing what I can do.”

With her first year of being a Tiger still months away, McPhail chooses to focus on the now. Having overcome adversity and focusing on herself as being the best athlete she can be, McPhail’s center of attention is putting her best into her final season as a Hornet.

“This year was the first year I’ve had a group of girls to train with,” McPhail said. “The dynamic has definitely changed from my sophomore year to my senior year. Sophomore year, I was training with all guys, but now they’ve all graduated and run competitively in college. Now that I can run with girls, it’s been pretty fun.”

McPhail has dominated the latest Cross Country season and now the Indoor Track season, with the Outdoor season quickly approaching. As McPhail enters her final season as a Chelsea Hornet she advises younger runners to enjoy the sport.

“I would tell younger runners just to make sure you’re having fun with it,” McPhail said. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just make sure it’s something that you enjoy.”