By Olivia Bousquet
After 39 years, Aislyn McDonough broke SUNY Plattsburgh’s school record for the 600 meter event with a 1:38.86 time. The track and field team traveled to St. Lawrence University Feb. 18, which is when McDonough beat Amy Pagani’s record time of 1:41.78 in 1983.
“I was kind of in shock, definitely,” McDonough said about her reaction after realizing she broke the record. “And then my teammates came over, and they were hugging me. And I was just very grateful for the opportunity to be able to do that again, and it’s really exciting.”
McDonough, a senior captain on the team, rarely competes in this event because it’s offered only twice a year. The reason is because it’s a nontraditional distance. Head Coach Andrew Krug said it’s not offered at SUNYAC Championships, regionals or national competitions. Yet earlier in the season, McDonough came one second close to beating the record at Middlebury after Krug told her. She had no idea she was so close to beating the record and “begged him for another chance.” After Krug asked the St. Lawrence staff to add it, they did, but couldn’t promise any entries.
Only one other athlete from the University of Vermont competed against McDonough in the 600 meter race. But her ability to break the record did not come as a surprise.
“Aislyn is a very talented athlete that was very capable of breaking that school record, and she did so in a kind of commanding fashion,” Krug said. “I’m so very happy for her. It’s been on her mind for 3 weeks, and so for her to be able to accomplish that and put her name in our team’s history is great.”
The night before the race, McDonough called her brother Liam to talk about the race. She regularly calls him before and after meets to keep him in the loop of what happens.
“I am her No. 1 fan as far as athletics goes,” Liam McDonough, a former college baseball and hockey player, said. “And it doesn’t matter what sport, I’ve always been a full supporter of hers. She also played college soccer for the University of Maine, so I’ve always been a big fan of Aislyn’s.”
As she prepared herself at the starting mark and the gun went off, she ran about 25 meters before being told there was a false start.
“During the false start —which wasn’t even a false start, it was just a timing mishap — My heart sank, because that can be a lot on an athlete’s adrenaline to have it up and then be taken away,” said fellow captain and friend Kristen Boerke. “But she took it like a champ, obviously, I don’t even think it truly affected her. She just took off.”
While McDonough may have looked collected on the track, her nerves were high. She felt everyone’s eyes on her as she started again.
A 600 meter race on an indoor NCAA track is three laps. In order to beat the record, McDonough had to run an average of 33 seconds each lap. McDonough needed to focus intensely during those laps to hold the new record.
“While I was doing it, I was just thinking about how badly I wanted it and how much I wanted my name on that board with all the other incredible athletes that Plattsburgh has had in the past,” McDonough said.
One minute and 38 seconds racing on the track went by quickly, but McDonough practiced relentlessly leading up to the SLU meet.
McDonough is a student teacher during the day so she mainly practices on her own time. She built her endurance base though cross country in the fall semester, and she’s been focusing on her fast twitch muscles for indoor. This means smaller sprints, but with a shorter recovery time and a lot of repetition. She’s able to build endurance, but focus more on speed than longevity.
To those that know her, McDonough’s commitment to the sport is seen on and off the track.
“She is the most driven, motivated and hardworking teammate I think I’ve ever had,” Boerke said. “She just has this passion for the sport that I’ve never seen before. She’s obviously a great captain. She’s very supportive, but I think her best quality is her passion and dedication to the team. She pushes herself to the limits every day.”
After breaking the record, McDonough was SUNYAC women’s indoor track athlete of the week. From Feb. 25 to Feb. 26, McDonough competed at SUNY Brockport for SUNYAC Championships. She placed second in the women’s 800-meter finals with a 2:19.62 time, and placed fourth in the women’s 4×400-meter relay with a 4:16.87 time.
McDonough will travel to Nazareth college March 4-5 to compete in the 800-meter run for All-Atlantic Region Track and Field Conference (AARTFC) Indoor Championships.