PITTSBURGH – It has always been the goal of the USATF Foundation to communicate with and support athletes on all levels. Now more than ever, we understand the importance of learning from recent collegiate athletes who are entering the sport in an extremely uncertain time. The Foundation interviewed twin brothers, Jack and Tim McGowan, who recently graduated from Penn State and are now represented by clubs at the elite level.
Jack McGowan, who recently started running for NYNJ 2nd Team after a successful career at Penn State shared his experience starting with a club in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis. Due to a strict emphasis on social distancing, Jack went from reporting and training directly with his coach and training partner, to training with his brother back at home.
Although Tim McGowan trains with a different club, BAA HP, he has had a very similar start to his post-collegiate career as his brother. Shortly after moving out to Boston, Tim had to leave his new routine and move back home. The ability to train alongside his brother now, and their close friends Isaiah and Elijah Claiborne has allowed him to get quality mileage while apart from his new team.
Name, Age, Events, Club
Jack McGowan, 24, Mile-10k, NYNJ 2nd Team
Tim McGowan, 24, Mile-10k, BAA HP
What have been the biggest athletic/personal changes that came as a result of COVID-19, and how have you been able to adapt to these new circumstances?
Jack: The biggest change would have to be not being able to go into the city to workout. I had been meeting up with coach John Trautmann and my training partner to work out, but now we can’t work out as a team anymore. I am now working out with my brother at home, but I was really getting a lot from the coach and my training partner.
Tim: The biggest change has been that practice got cancelled. I moved to Boston at the start of 2020 and felt that I had finally gotten adjusted to a new city, coach, teammates and routine and then the world shut down. It’s been important to keep meeting up with people like my brother or like Isaiah and Elijah Claiborne. (set of twins from Northport that went to Penn State with Jack and I) We hold each other accountable and keep it fun still. The biggest change has been that one minute I was sitting in my apartment with my roommate talking about how we can’t wait to travel and compete this year. We were days away from our training trip in Flagstaff, Arizona when we found out the trip got cancelled.
What have been the main differences in training location, sponsorship possibilities, change in coaching/training philosophy from college to now?
Jack: As I’m on the second team for NYNJ, I train with only one person instead of a whole team. It’s a different dynamic than I’m used to, but I love and appreciate every minute of it.
Tim: Adidas has always been so good to the BAA and I love representing them. It has felt strange using gear and shoes when there are no races on the schedule. Going from a great college team to a pro team has been an awesome experience, and humbling because it is the first time that I’ve had teammate’s that have personal bests so much better than mine. I really feel like I have a lot to learn and it’s been fun to feel like a freshman again.
Favorite part about running for Penn State and in the Big Ten
Jack: My team. The kind of excitement and encouragement I get from everyone. Men and Women’s were all one team and we supported each other. Plus, everyone loves the Normatec boots.
Tim: I had nothing but great experiences at Penn State, I really feel like I got lucky. I love the sense of pride and history for running at a school like Penn State. Coach Gondak made sure we had the best facilities to train in and gave me the chance to travel around the country and do what I love. The Big Ten blew me away from my first meet. Lots of other school and conferences just train through or have years where it is not that competitive, but every school seems to have a real passion for the conference meet.
At what point in your life did you realize Track and Field could turn into a potential career/post collegiate opportunity?
Jack: It was up and down for me. The first time I had that thought, was after high school Nationals my senior year. Before Brooks PR my Dad got a call from a company saying if we stay in shape through college then there could be potential. Through college that was a thought that kept me going until my 5th year when I was having one of the hardest years of my life. I didn’t give up hope, even though it was tough. Then in October of 2019 coach John Trautmann and the NYNJ crew offered me a spot.
Tim: I didn’t think much about it until my senior year of high school. I was really blessed my senior year of high school and I walked away with a couple county records after the indoor season. At that time my coach started talking to me about the Olympic trials. At first it was something to think about to fire me up when training got tough, but when I got to Penn State and got more exposed to track, I began to shoot for it.
What has been the proudest athletic moment of your career?
Jack: I would say the moment my high school cross country teammates and I became the first team in Long Island history to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals. Winning a B1G title for PSU is still a proud moment, but at that time in high school for Northport we were a team that no one said we were going to make it. As a matter of fact, someone at the time wrote an article predicting we would fail. But we proved them wrong.
Tim: I think winning the programs first team Big Ten title is still one of the highlights of my career. The whole meet was very intense, but it all came together at the right time. That 2017 team was probably my favorite team that I was a part of.
If you could give younger you one piece of advice what would it be?
Jack: Let past mistakes stay in the past. Learn from them and stay positive moving forward.
Tim: I would probably tell him not to think so much and take things one meet at a time. I think when I came to Penn State, I wanted too much success too fast.
Biggest inspiration inside and outside of the sport?
Jack: My friends and teammates.
Tim: My dad was a big inspiration to me. I feel like a lot of parent’s force sports onto their kids and my Dad did it perfectly. Another inspiration would be my high school coach Jason Strom. He taught me to care about my team and to be selfless. When I ran, I wanted to do well for the team and for him.
Any other successful athletes in your family (besides your brother)?
Jack: It’s just me and Tim as runners. My dad was a D1 diver, but he never ran. Tim is the most successful athlete of the family.
Tim: My father dove and swam at Notre Dame. I tried swimming, but I wasn’t any good at it.
When did you first take part in track and field?
Jack: My freshman year of high school in the outdoor season.
Tim: I think I was 13. I got cut from the lacrosse team and didn’t really know what to do and the I discovered that I liked running.
Did you play (or want to play) any other sports growing up?
Jack: When I was younger, I did little league, soccer, and karate. In middle school and my first year of high school I was a book worm. I didn’t do a track until the outdoor season of freshman year.
Tim: I gave a lot of sports a shot before I started to run. I grew up skateboarding and when I got a little older, I got really into lacrosse and wrestling. I got pinned… a lot.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Jack: You need confidence to get through anything that comes your way. Good and especially the bad.
Tim: My college coach Angela Reckart would always tell me to calm down and turn my brain off when I looked too nervous. It was always a go to mantra before the big meets.
Person you are most thankful for in the progression of your career:
Jack: Coach Angela Reckart from Penn State
Tim: I had a tough first year at Penn State. It was very up and down, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to contribute like I could in high school. Once I started to be coached by Angela Reckart that all changed. I clicked well with her training and credit her for any success I had.
Any superstitions/warm up routines you don’t stray from?
Jack: Drills and mobility. I can’t workout or race without getting a stretch in.
Tim: I have too many to count. In high school I would play with my hair but I got made fun of for that one a lot.
Explain the dynamic of training/working out with your twin brother, has it brought you guys closer as you’ve progressed in your careers?
Jack and Tim: It really has brought us closer when working together and having that kind of bond of getting the right kind of fitness and endurance.
Funniest story in either high school or college that has related both you and your brother?
In College on the bus to a B1G ten trip Coach Tuck was doing attendance. He called out individual names until my name came up and he yelled “THE TWINS?” ironically Tim and I were sitting next to each other.