From Big Red to Syracuse Orange: Perry Mackinnon's transfer success
Having joined the Syracuse Orange as a transfer from Cornell University, senior Perry Mackinnon has made an immediate impact on the men's cross country squad. Finishing first for the team in all but two of his appearances, Mackinnon’s consistent point scoring helped lift Syracuse to their best showing at the NCAA Championship since 2016 with a ninth place team result. His 19th place individual result in Charlottesville was 105 places better than last year at the NCAA Championship.
“I felt like I had been to races where I’d seen a lot of the competition already. So mentally, I felt really prepared,” says Mackinnon. “Essentially, my game plan was to repeat what I had been doing throughout the season [and had] been working well for me – just getting out aggressively, hanging in that lead pack, kind of sitting in the pocket there and just staying competitive within that pack for as long as I can.”
Mackinnon’s consistent racing throughout the season prepared him perfectly for the national championship, with top-20 finishes at the NCAA Northeast Regional, ACC Championship, and Nuttycombe Invitational.
“I just had to treat it like other races and not blow it out of proportion. Honestly, I felt the calmest I had ever been for the cross-country national championship by far. Obviously, I was still nervous,” says Mackinnon.
With the team consistently ranked inside the top ten and even inside the top five at certain points of the season, Mackinnon was faced with the task of performing for the team as well as for himself. Come the NCAA Championship, Mackinnon was the first Syracuse Orange across the line, playing a critical role in the team’s ninth place finish.
“I wanted to do well for the team. I think I just felt like I was really well prepared for the race and I had done everything I could possibly do.”
Mackinnon’s transition to Syracuse for his final seasons of eligibility could not have been more seamless. The partnership has been mutually beneficial with Syracuse offering a strong distance program and being well-oriented towards 5-10,000 meter specialists.
“For me, I felt like it was a really good fit on so many levels. I think they're definitely a program that's very distance oriented and that's something that fits well with me. I'm someone that likes to have a bigger volume in training, and I'm more of a 5k/10k guy. I feel like that's really the bread and butter here at Syracuse; that 5 and 10k distance,” says Mackinnon.
As for the coaching staff at Syracuse, one with heaps of experience coaching top level NCAA athletes, Mackinnon feels that it is among the best in the country. “Coach Bell is extremely experienced. He's been with the team for a very, very long time through the whole Justyn Knight era. He knows what a winning national team looks like. He's seen a lot of top performing athletes go through the program and so for me it was so cool. It’s kind of a full circle moment for me to come to Syracuse since I grew up idolizing Justyn Knight and it's just cool to be part of that program now,” says Mackinnon.
The program is also a strong fit as a result of the team’s current roster, which has its fair share of fellow grad school athletes that have either spent all their undergrad years at Syracuse or, like Mackinnon, found a new home there after transferring.
“The team is very mature. We're a lot of fifth years, a lot of six years, which is nice for me because I'm also a grad transfer, so that's that's kind of nice to to walk into a team that already has a lot of that maturity and not just maturity in their personality but training maturity as well and so I think that was a good fit for me,” he says.
As expected for a distance heavy program, the name of the game is volume, volume, volume when it comes to workouts, an aspect of Syracuse training that Mackinnon thoroughly enjoys. “Workout days, those are the big, big volume days. When we do tempo or threshold or even intervals, we’re just getting a lot of volume in. It’s not necessarily the most impressive workouts in terms of speed, we’re not going insanely fast. It’s fast, but it’s not a crazy pace. It’s just the volume where you get so strong. We also do a lot of hill work during the fall and that also gives you a big edge because when you’re doing a tempo up a three mile hill, it definitely builds a lot of mental strength and fortitude for those cross country races.”
As for what Syracuse has to offer outside of the team, the city provides excellent opportunities for university students. “Outside of running, Syracuse is a nice little city. For me, I grew up in the rural parts of Quebec, so I kind of feel like it is a nice manageable sized city,” says Mackinnon. “You have everything that cities have to offer, but it's not overwhelming. There's still lots of green spaces and you're just a 15-20 minute drive from some beautiful running spots.”
Mackinnon will be finishing his last two outdoor and indoor seasons at Syracuse while also getting his master’s degree in entrepreneurship. “I've been meeting a lot of people that have their own startups and learning about how they've been navigating those challenges, being in school and also running a business on the side. That's super inspiring and cool. So hearing their stories and networking and meeting all kinds of people has been really fun.”
Representing Cornell, Mackinnon’s 2023 track and field campaign was highlighted by a 20th place finish in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. With the 2024 indoor season underway, the Canadian seeks to improve on his 5,000 and 10,000 meters personal records and to make championship appearances during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
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