From 2007 to 2009, West Virginia won the Big East Championships in 2007, placing ninth, fourth, and sixth in a row at the NCAA Championships and American sprinters Keri Bland, Mary-Louise Aslin and Clara Grandt were all.
Bland and Grant were local girls who really thrived under Cleary’s tutelage, while Asselin was a sought-after prep actress who also came from Canada. West Virginia’s success at the NCAA cross-country meet in 2011 and 2014 continued with an eighth-place pair.
But the show took a hit in 2016 when Millie Palladino moved from Morgantown to Providence after her second season. She went on to become a three-time Big East Champion and five-time All-American with the Frias and is now working professionally for New Balance.
Her departure greatly affected the Mountaineer program and also led to a chain reaction from local girls sticking to other schools. Something similar happened to Marty Pushkin’s men’s program in the mid-1980s when two of the best sprinters, Steve Taylor and Jean-Pierre Ndaysinga, moved to Virginia Tech and George Mason after bombarding the team in the NCAAs.
It took Pushkin about a decade to get out of this hole once he began recruiting Canadian entertainers like Bob Doncker and Cleary, who stayed on at WVU after his running career ended to train men’s and women’s distance runners. Since 1997, the Mid-Atlantic coach of the year, she has led 11 women’s cross-country teams to the national championships and is nearing a total of 100 All-American teams in track and cross-country.
Once again, Cleary is back in his old yards to give the Mountaineer’s distance program a big adrenaline boost with Canadian McCabe.
Within six months, Seeley had gone from being just another American college runner to one of the country’s top rising young artists — and possibly even the world by next summer.
Interestingly enough, its rise began when the world slipped in 2020 due to COVID-19. She couldn’t go home and couldn’t compete, so all she did was train, train, and train more.
“I wasn’t running very well and (the shutdown) gave me a lot of time to run,” McCabe explained. Her roommate, Amy Kashin, is an Australian Olympian and the two got into a daily workout routine together. “I think having someone to do things day in and day out and stay in the daily routine has been very helpful.
“Since high school, I’ve definitely enjoyed training for a routine like this, and I think the consistency during that time made me more of a runner who could run a race because I didn’t have a lot of fitness.”
According to her coach, McCabe’s quick turnaround was simply amazing.
Her confidence level swelled last spring when she finished sixth in the outdoor Nationals hurdles, and when she started running cross-country last fall, she was 45 seconds faster than when she was a freshman.
This fall, McCabe won the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Race, which featured most of the group’s best program, took first place in the Big 12, and also won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Race to qualify for this year’s Nationals.
She then finished third in the NCAAs last week to become the highest-ranked WVU ever, male or female, topped 8th for Kate Harrison in 2011 and Carl Hatfield as men’s 10th in 1968.
The runner who beat McCabe, University of British Columbia’s Whitney Orton, is a sixth-year COVID champion, while runner-up Mercy Chilangat of Alabama is a fourth-year junior and was last year’s champion. When Cleary spoke to McCabe after the race, he asked her if she was ecstatic or a little upset for her third place finish.
McCabe said she was a little upset with herself because she was so close to winning a national title.
“I always want to put myself in the best position to win,” she explained. “I just wanted to be more competitive at the finish line. For me, going into the meet, I know the winner and runner-up are probably going to continue to run professionally, so they were more than capable of beating me, but I wanted to have that advantage and push them both. More powerful than me. I think I did.
“You always want to play them on the line the best you can, and that’s something I’ve fantasized about doing and didn’t quite do, so from that perspective it’s frustrating to look back, but I’m definitely fortunate to have the opportunity and hopefully I can put that into action a little bit better in the future. Next time “.