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Pursuit: Catching up to the fast feet of Megan Crocker

Former Laurentian Voyageur star was a soccer player until she missed tryouts and took up running. This month she placed 6th out of 1,500 runners at the Royal Victoria Marathon
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Former Laurentian Voyageur star Megan Crocker was a soccer player until she missed tryouts and took up running. In October 2022, she placed 6th out of 1,500 runners at the Royal Victoria Marathon.

Coach may not always know best, but in this particular case, Darren Jermyn most definitely did.

“Darren has a lot more confidence in my ability than I do,” said 27-year-old Track North runner Megan Crocker, laughing. “He said that I could do that kind of time. He set that pace.

“I thought I might need to slow it down, but of course, I end up running much closer to what Darren said I could run.”

This month, the Laurentian Voyageurs alum covered the 21-kilometre half-marathon of the Royal Victoria Marathon race series with a time of 1:22.53 — good enough for a sixth-place finish in a field of nearly 1,500 runners. What’s more, Crocker’s time at the event had her within a whisker of cracking the top 100 in the country.

“I didn’t know I had that time in myself,” said Crocker, who hails from Mississauga originally.

There could be a very good reason Crocker isn’t a font of confidence in her running ability — she wasn’t a runner until she came to Sudbury to attend Laurentian University’s Outdoor Adventure Leadership program and teacher’s college.

“I had always played soccer growing up, but I didn’t know when (soccer) tryouts were (at Laurentian) and I missed them,” she said. “I wanted to keep in shape for the next year so Nicole Rich (a varsity runner) suggested I come out and run with the team.”

Her progression through the years was impressive to put it mildly. Walk-on runners don’t often earn the chance to don the singlet of their university squad, let alone develop into the No. 1-seeded athlete in their crew.

Crocker wasn’t named to LU’s travelling team in her first year at the school, but by her final Ontario University Athletics cross-country season in 2018, she was topping the charts at Laurentian, placing 14th in the province that fall.

“Thinking back on it, it’s wild to think about. I remember doing my first warm-up run with the team, a 20-minute warm-up run, and I thought that was the workout. I was gassed,” Crocker said.

And while she certainly has the running chops, it’s the development stream within the Track North program she credits with helping grow her innate skills. 

“Both Darren (Jermyn) and Dick (Moss) have been instrumental in my running career,” Crocker said. “I honestly wouldn’t know where to start or how to train without them.”

She may have started in soccer, but Crocker’s love for the pure sport of running grew to the point that she stuck around after her final season just so she could train with Track North, soaking up the knowledge of coaches like Jermyn and Moss.

“I stayed in Sudbury that summer (2019) and trained with Track North, just because that’s what I had always been doing,” said Crocker. “There weren’t any specific plans or goals. I just liked running.”

And running liked her, with Crocker remaining pretty much injury-free until after her varsity days. “I had been through university without ever having to take more than a month off,” she said. 

Unfortunately, a nasty hip ailment in the summer of 2020 would leave her sidelined for more than a year, and Crocker wouldn’t get back into racing until May 2022, joining a 10-km affair in Vancouver, B.C.

Her sixth-place finish in the Royal Victoria Marathon didn’t come without Jermyn’s words and training echoing through her mind.

“There were definitely points in the race where I was wondering about what Darren had said,  but I remember distinctly at the 12-km mark thinking I was still hitting my sub-4:00 kilometres,” Crocker said. “This could be the race of my life, I thought, but there’s still eight or nine kilometres to go, so it could turn around.”

While she still experiences some of that self-doubt, Megan Crocker, by her own admission, said it’s improving.

“I have confidence now – more so,” she said with a smile. “I am excited to see where I might max out — just how fast could I do a half?”

The answer, of course, might best come from her coach — the gentleman that arguably knows her better than she knows herself — at least when it comes to her running.

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.