In 2016 when Morgan McDonald sat down to discuss his running goals with his college coaches Mick Byrne and Gavin Kennedy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he said he was aiming to make it to the Olympics.
“They kind of, like, laughed at me,” recalls McDonald.
But that hackneyed saying about “shooting for the moon” is a cliché for a reason. That year ended up being a breakthrough season for McDonald, skyrocketing him from a very good runner in the Big Ten conference to nationally recognized name in the NCAA underscored by a 5th-place finish in the 5,000-meter at the NCAA Outdoor Championship.
He ended up missing the qualifying time for the Australian Olympic team in the 5,000m by a mere 4 seconds, smashing his previous PB by over 30 seconds with a 13:29. (He needed 13:25 to qualify.)
Despite falling short of making the 2016 Rio team, it was a far cry from failure. McDonald went on to qualify for the IAAF World Championships in 2017 after running the sixth fastest 5,000m time in Australian history (13:15.83). He’s qualified for Worlds every year since, won the 2018 NCAA cross country championship and the indoor and outdoor 5,000m titles — and signed with Under Armor in 2019 after graduating from UW-Madison.