The 'ultimate competitor:' Kernels' Nate McCormick shows off speed in senior season

May 1—MITCHELL — Contrary to the notion of being relaxed while running in track and field, Mitchell senior Nate McCormick has been told he runs upset and angry.

While it may appear that way as he sprints down the track, McCormick says he attempts to run more relaxed, but his ultimate goal to win each race trumps everything else.

"I want to win so bad that I just get in this mindset," McCormick said. "I want to win so bad that I'm fired up and ready to go, and once I get onto the track, nothing else matters besides the race. I'm not thinking about anything else. It's just purely the race ahead of me."

His intensity on the track is where McCormick has been labeled "the ultimate competitor" by his coaches, and the former Kernel distance runner's gradual growth has now led to results at the top of the state charts this season.

So far, McCormick has earned nine event victories on the year in five different categories. He's won three times in the 200 meters, setting the school record in the category with a time of 22.21 seconds at the Legion Relays on April 22. McCormick also has won twice in both 100 and 400-meter events and was on winning teams in the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays.

As some of McCormick's other races have been learning experiences and ways for him to see what needs to be worked on, he'll still post a competitive time. In longer races, the opportunity only grows.

"Nate's the kind of guy you want on your team," sprints coach Eric Palmer said. "He likes to run races so he can run against the best people and measure himself that way, and he'll drive and push as hard as he can to make sure he finishes at the front of the line.

"He has the mental attitude that I'm going to run those guys down, chase them, and beat them," he added.

Unlike long-distance running and cross country, sprinting only gives the competitors tenths and hundredths of a second to account for any mistakes. McCormick has worked with both Palmer and fellow sprints coach James Dougherty to improve his acceleration off the starting line.

Despite his yearning to go out and run as many races as he can at each meet the Kernels have gone to, his maturity and experience has taught McCormick when to back off and properly recover in time for the next race. It's been a goal of his throughout the year and one that receives greater importance with the upcoming schedule.

"We want to be better for the state track meet," head coach Deb Thill said. "So you can't overrun your kids now and get them all hurt. But we do a good job of teaching our kids the proper technique and the warm up, cool down, and taking care of their bodies."

"If something pops up, take care of it right away," McCormick added. "I'm just trying to keep myself strong for the rest of the season and especially these big meets coming up. They're the ones that were circled at the beginning of the season that everyone's preparing for.

One of the biggest areas of growth displayed by McCormick during his time on the Kernel track and field team hasn't been on the track.

Off the track, he's taken on a prominent leadership role, helping the younger athletes to push themselves to perform better and teaching them how to adjust to different situations on the track. McCormick's actions in practice have also shown them what it takes to reach the top level.

"We know he runs fast," Thill said, "but we've also seen him grow as a team leader, helping the younger kids and saying things like, 'We got to do this now.' Just that whole process with so many kids, he's really helpful that way ... for him to be a good person and a good leader and a good student is just as important for us."

McCormick will continue to showcase all of his skills and traits in the upcoming Howard Wood Dakota Relays, scheduled to begin on Friday, May 3. With the Eastern South Dakota conference meet and the state track meet around the corner as well, McCormick has set his goals for both the upcoming events and target times for his races.

"My goal is to get my 400-meter time under 50 seconds," he said. "I want to break the 400-meter (school) record and be able to medal in an event at Howard Wood and the state meet. But the biggest thing is those records I've had in my sights for the last four years. Now that I'm about there, that's the end goal: break those records and leave a mark."

The school record at 400 meters is held by Justin Greenway, who ran a 49.27 in the 2010 state championships. Regardless of reaching the record or other personal milestones, McCormick has grown as an individual throughout his time on the roster, and believes the lessons learned while on the track separate the sport from the others.

"You just have to be the best person you can be," McCormick said. "By meeting new people, talking to them, and meeting people on the track from different towns, I feel those lessons I've learned have been the most beneficial to me for the future, and I feel track has stuck out more in that sense than anything else."