East Lyme's Macklin making up for lost time
Kingston, R.I. — It has always been the team dynamic that's of paramount importance for Fisher Macklin.
It's what helped him the most as he made the transition to East Lyme High School after moving back to the area from Brentwood, California, prior to his freshman year, finding like-minded individuals and friends as part of the boys' cross country team.
And it's what hurt him the most during cross country season this fall when Macklin injured his left Achilles tendon during an early-season dual meet, feeling as if he was disappointing his teammates as they geared toward a possible second straight state championship.
So it was possibly a strange request which came from East Lyme boys' indoor track coach Steve Hargis on Saturday at the University of Rhode Island Track Classic at Mackal Field House.
Hargis asked Macklin, a sophomore, to run a little more selfishly.
"He's a great kid," Hargis said of Macklin, a member of two straight Class MM state championships in cross country, who was 19th in the mile Saturday in 4 minutes, 57.40 seconds — he was seeded 27th — breaking the five-minute barrier for the first time in his career.
"The last couple days getting ready for this race, we talked about that he might even be too team-centered. He needs to be a bit more selfish. He wants his teammates to do really, really well," Hargis said.
Macklin won the third heat of the event, which also included teammate Luke Anthony, a freshman, who was 22nd in 4:58.58. Immediately following the finish, Macklin went to wrap an arm around Anthony.
"I want him to be the mentor to Luke and he is," Hargis said. "They both went under 5:00. He helped Luke do it as well. ... He now knows he can do that. He knows it's OK to go fast. He's a big part of the team going forward."
Macklin, who has now contributed to two straight Eastern Connecticut Conference and state titles in cross country, was just starting out in the Vikings' season-opening dual meet on Sept. 11 in Stonington when he felt an unfamiliar pain in his left heel.
"Close to the end of the race, I knew something was wrong," said Macklin, who crumbled to the turf infield at Stonington. "I had to sit down.
"I knew it wasn't that bad. I knew that Ben (Rukundo) and Luke could definitely make up for me. They're good friends and good teammates. The entire team really helped. They all offered to help me up when I finished. It's a great team, especially when you're not racing."
Macklin's recovery took a lot of ice and stretching and a lot of non-use of his foot. No running at all for a few weeks.
"It was very, very challenging for him," said Macklin's mom, Kim Hargrave, a 1993 Ledyard High School graduate and former ECC 3,200-meter champion in outdoor track. "He felt bad about himself. Freshman year there were no expectations. Sophomore year, there were expectations and he felt he wasn't living up to them."
Macklin overcame the injury in time for the postseason. He was 18th in the ECC meet at Norwich Golf Club in 18:33 and 28th in the Class MM meet at Wickham Park in 17:52, East Lyme's No. 5 runner in both instances. The Vikings won both races.
The finishes weren't all that Macklin wanted. He was 12th in the ECC last year (18:25) and 19th in Class MM (18:10) and the Vikings' No. 4 man.
His teammates knew, however, what he had been through during his comeback.
"Sophomore year, I got sick halfway through indoor track," said East Lyme senior Sam Whittaker, the Class MM state champion in cross country and the 1,600-meter winner Saturday at URI. "I got back to where I was when I got sick, but I never got where I wanted.
"... If (Macklin) wasn't there (at the state meet), we wouldn't have won. He's a really nice kid, a really good kid. He puts in all the work. I don't think he necessarily does it for himself."
Macklin's family — now consisting of his mom and dad Kim and Jason, older brother Andrew and younger sisters Emily and Zoe — moved from Ledyard to Brentwood following his fourth-grade year. Andrew ran track and cross country for Liberty High School.
One of Macklin's favorite things about Brentwood, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, was its compact nature. He could walk to school every day and often rode his bike around town.
"Our middle school was really good at cross country," Macklin said. "So was our high school. There was an extracurricular running club thing that really helped, that got me to enjoy running. ... I definitely wasn't close to (where I am) here."
In 2017, the Macklins returned to southeastern Connecticut to be closer to their extended familes; Kim and Jason are both Ledyard High graduates. Jason took a job as a high performance computing systems engineer at The Jackson Laboratory in Farmington, a biomedical research facility. The family settled in Salem.
Having seen her son try every sport imaginable growing up, including soccer and water polo, Kim Hargrave never imagined Fisher would follow in her path as a distance runner. Knowing the strong bond that runners share, however, and with Fisher knowing no one entering high school, she encouraged him to try cross country.
"It was pretty tough," Macklin said. "But with cross country (workouts) starting in the summer, I knew where to find (my teammates) on the first day of school.
"My freshman year, I wasn't sure what to expect. Our first workout, our coach put us into workout groups and he put me in group one. It was a struggle at first."
Macklin has grown to like cross country the most of the three running seasons, enjoying the terrain. Indoors, the mile is his favorite — "the 800's too fast; the 3,200's a lot of laps," he said with a laugh.
He will run the mile at the ECC championship Feb. 2 at the Coast Guard Academy, where East Lyme will try to win its fifth straight league title, and hopes to qualify in that event for the state championship meet.
He finds that his mom often "knows what to do," whether Macklin is injured or just needs encouragement. Hargrave and her mother Janet were in attendance at Saturday's meet.
"It is a little nerve-wracking to be back at these meets," Hargrave said with a smile. "I try to let it be (that) this is his thing right now. I try to mention things that were told to me by coach (Bruce) Douglass or coach (Dave) Tetlow (at Ledyard) that were helpful.
"... I know the excitement that comes with getting milestones. I remember when I broke 6:00 for the first time, I was just telling my mom. Now to see him break 5:00 is exciting."
And of his health?
"I felt really great today. I felt I could go faster. It was a great environment," Macklin said, before adding one final team-oriented note. "And I'm proud of Luke. He ran sub-5:00, too."