During his junior college career, he earned one letter in track at Jones County Junior College and one letter in cross country at Bevill State Community College. He advanced to the national meet in the 800 meters his freshman year at Jones and earned JUCO all-American honors. He was also a member of Bevill State's 2000 junior college national championship team in cross country under coach Heath Dudley. McConnell ran his best 800m while at Bevill State, clocking a 1:49.01 mark. He earned the Bobcat Award at Jones as the team's most valuable runner.
In high school, he earned four letters in track for C.F. Vigor High School. McConnell won the county and sectional championship as a sophomore in the 800m and finished second in the sectionals of the 400m. He also lettered in basketball and football.
He is the son of Elmore and Mary McConnell.
Elmore McConnell Interview:
Explain what men's cross country is for those of us who don't know a lot about it.
"Men's cross country is 6 mile races. Some races are 5, but once you get to the conference it is 6 miles. It is basically like a golf course type of thing. You are running on hills, through the grass, woods. You have muddy pits. There are different things."
You mentioned prior to this interview that MSU will have a men's cross country team this coming year. Is this the first time MSU has had a men's cross country team?
"They've had one in the past, but we are bringing it back."
Who will be the coaches for the men's cross country team?
"Coach Dudley and Coach Schmidt will both be training us."
Cross country's season is during the fall. How is the training different in the actual season compared to your summer training?
"The summer training is based on doing a lot of mileage just to build yourself up. Without a strong foundation, you can't last long. Later on, we begin doing workouts and tempo runs, interval speed runs."
You mentioned training during the summer. Prior to this interview you did a training session. What time did you get here and how much did you run?
"We came up here at 6 this morning. I ran 8 miles. (Juco All-American) Gedamu (Ege) and Kevin Coch (a distance and cross country runner from Kentwood, Mich.) ran 9 miles. Kevin is a freshman. We have a lot of great freshmen coming in."
How many times do you run 8 or 9 miles?
"It varies. Sometimes we might get up one morning and run 8, then the next morning we might get up and run 9. Then, on a Sunday, during the season, we might wake up and do 12 or 13 miles."
Do you run the long runs 3 or 4 times a week?
"Six times a week, especially during (the) cross country (season)."
How difficult is it to run that much that many times during the week?
"Once you focus and zone out, it's like any other sport. Once you are zoned out, you can do anything you put your mind to."
What time of the day do you guys run?
"We do most of our workouts in the morning in the summer and first semester due to the heat. We might come back in the evening and do easy runs and lift weights."
What would you call an easy run?
"An easy run is 4 or 5 miles at a nice steady pace."
I know you ran several events the past two seasons at State. How did you do in your events?
"When I came out of junior college (national champion Bevill State Junior College), I was running a 1.49 (800 meters), but I ran into a couple of injuries once I got here. This year, I ran a 1.51 and just missed qualifying for the regionals. I should be better this coming season because cross country should make me better."
It looks like running both would make it harder on you.
"No, it won't. Cross country will only make me better. Cross country prepares you for the pain. There is so much pain you put yourself through when you are running."
Even though you run a lot and burn a lot of calories, do you have to watch what you eat like those of us who don't work out much?
"Yes, because nutrition is a big part of it. You have to take your vitamins and eat certain types of food so that you make sure you have your carbs. You have to eat vegetables and make sure you drink a lot of fluids. We have a guide that we follow to make sure that we are getting the correct nutrients."
Even though you have to watch what you eat, since you burn off so many calories running, do you have to eat a large amount of food to replace the calories you burn off running each day?
"Not really. You shouldn't overeat because you will stretch your stomach. The more you stretch your stomach, the more you will want to eat."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.