Lehi’s senior Jefferson McMullen chose to continue his running career at Brigham Young University and formally approved the athletic scholarship on Tuesday (December 21).
He has also received offers from Utah Valley, Weber State, Utah, Southern Utah, and Utah Tech. The University of Utah no longer had a men’s cross country team, so all of the state’s Division I programs were competing for his services.
After winning the state’s 5A singles title, McMullin went on to finish seventh at the West Regionals in Walnut, California on Dec. 4 and put 18thy at the Eastbay (formerly Foot Locker) National Cross Country Championships in San Diego on Dec. 11.
At the West Regionals, he was among the eight runners who broke the course record of 15:21 at Mt. San Antonio, the host venue. He scored 15:17 at the time of the event.
“Our first mile was 4:31, which is really fast,” McMullen said. “I was hoping to stay in the top three. I thought this was the safest place for me to get into the top ten in order to qualify to advance to the Nationals.
“I stayed in the front set for the first mile and a half, but fell into the second set after that,” he continued. “This track has a lot of hills in the second part, and I had to be mentally stronger for this race over the other races. There was a long climb in the last three quarters of a mile and I had to stay strong through it.”
The conditions on race day were not ideal. McMullen said it was so foggy that he couldn’t see much of the track, but added that running in Utah during the winter solstice helped him get used to such conditions.
“I wanted to finish a little higher,” he said, “but I got the job done.” “It was great to be racing against people I had never met before, which made this a different experience than running in Utah where I know all my competitors so well.”
McMullin had a busy week between these races. He spent the first two days on his official visit to BYU but still had to do his pre-race training as well.
“I did my brisk business on Tuesday and lowered my overall mileage to keep my legs looking refreshed,” he said. Went to San Diego on Wednesday. “On Thursday and Friday, all I did was hang out with the guys on the western team and try to enjoy the moment.
“I wanted to enjoy being there because I worked so hard to get to this point and I wanted to appreciate the whole experience,” he said. “It was like nurturing.”
All expenses for the race participants, including travel, were paid. They stayed in a famous historic hotel, ate “fantastic” food, and received a lot of equipment from the company’s patron.
McMullen said, “It was one of the most fun weekends of my life. It was great to be with the elite athletes from all over the world who would be competing in college. I was so happy to go and participate.”
He said he purposely didn’t think about the race itself until Friday night and waited until Saturday morning to start his mental preparations.
“When it comes down to it, cross-country is 75 percent mental and 25 percent physical,” McMullen said. “This year I have been focused on developing a mindset that is versatile and strong, so I can be prepared to take on a lot of different circumstances. I was asked to grow as a runner.”
He described racing conditions as “absolutely perfect”. It was 65 degrees and partly cloudy. The grass was mushy; the dirt was hard but soft enough for thorns,” McMullen said.
He added that the atmosphere along the stadium was electric, and that he enjoyed cheering on spectators. “Two of the guys on the western team were from San Diego, so there were more people out there cheering for the western team,” he said.
However, the entire McMullin family headed to be on hand and his high school coach, Krist Dorton, was also present. “They were the only spectators I needed,” he said.
McMullin explained that he was shooting in the top 15, because this group earns the prestigious rating All-American. “I shriek the first mile and a half discreetly and kept reminding myself that the All-American pack was right in front of me,” he said.
In the end, he wasn’t able to catch that set and finished one and a half seconds short of the score. “You taught me a valuable lesson about the start of the race,” McMullen said. He said it was hard on himself, it took him a few hours to realize how well he really was doing.
‘To finish 18y In a national race is a really good thing. “Now I’m very happy with that and proud of all the work you’ve done and the improvements you’ve made to get me to this point. I also want to give a shout-out to my team-mate, Tyer Martin, for pushing me through the season and helping me get here.”
With his high school cross-country career now complete, McMullin plans to continue his development by running indoor and outdoor distance events with the track team.