MCGILL: @HerdTFXC Quartet Races Into MU Med School
The Word on the Herd -- May 4, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Being a distance runner takes a special kind of discipline. It requires a commitment to a longer journey. It is not simply an athletic endeavor, but a challenge to one’s mind.
It might be hard to fathom how a Division I athletic program can produce four medical school students, all of whom are headed to the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine here at Marshall University, at the same time. But, that is what the Marshall track and field and cross country programs have accomplished.
“I think it speaks volumes because if you look at acceptance rates into medical school the acceptance rate is usually around one percent,” said Meagan Carter, a graduate transfer who had one season of outdoor eligibility to exhaust. “So to have four people on one team at one school get accepted to medical school is really phenomenal.”
Carter, who transferred from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, will stay in Huntington for medical school along with teammates Tony Hayes, Drake Seccurro and Abbie Short. Hayes and Seccurro graduate this Saturday with degrees in biology, and each of them also obtained a minor in chemistry and psychology. Short is a freshman who is enrolled in Marshall’s Accelerated BS/MD program.
Seccurro and Hayes spent four seasons running together for coach Jeff Small, and they said the cooperation and flexibility of the coaching staff and the academic environment at Marshall should be commended.
“It reflects positively on the athletic department at Marshall University,” Seccurro said. “The fact that we’ve been provided all of these academic opportunities and there have been so many people help us along the way with the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Academic Center, our academic advisors, Karen McComas and SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee) and all kinds of other people. They pushed us and supported us along the way.”
Seccurro was diagnosed at 16 years old with Crohn’s Disease, and he said the atmosphere at Marshall was conducive to what he needed to learn and how he needed to be treated.
“Our coaches worked with us when we had a test or if I had to go somewhere for my Crohn’s, either for a medical appointment or a conference,” Seccurro said. “That always came before athletics. It’s a big thing that Marshall treats us as student-athletes where students come first. I appreciate that.”
Seccurro, who is from Hurricane, has used his disease as motivation in his pursuit of a career. He wants to have a positive effect on the Crohn’s community as a doctor, and become an advocate for his disease. He plans to focus on pediatric gastroenterology.
“We have a non-traditional track season, but in track I ran the 5K,” he said. “Mainly my goal was to prove that someone with a chronic illness could run for four years. I ended up running varsity for all four years and my senior year I was the fifth man and scored points near the end of the season.
“I was blessed to have this opportunity at Marshall University and to be able to compete at the Division I level while advocating for my disease at the same time, and to show kids who are chronically ill that anything is possible.”
Hayes, a Fairmont native, competed in the 8K and 10K in cross country and the 1,500, 3K, 3K steeple and 5K in track.
“My favorite is the 5K,” he said.
Hayes remains open to his career path as he enters medical school, but after dealing with multiple stress fractures he has his eye on orthopedics.
“I find it interesting,” he said. “I got to shadow an orthopedic surgeon and I thought that was really cool. I feel like orthopedics and medicine is a good combination of hands on and academics. It would be a really fun career.”
And, he said, he knows he’ll have a teammate by his side the next four or eight years.
“We’ve been running with each other for the past four years and we’re already awesome friends,” Hayes said of Seccurro. “Now we get to take this next step of our lives together for potentially eight years. You know you’re always going to have somebody there to fall back on if you need help.”
Carter found a perfect fit in Marshall. She was injured during her sophomore season at Seton Hill and missed the outdoor track season, so she had an unused year of eligibility.
“I was going to have a gap year,” she said. “One of the schools I had originally applied to was Marshall, so I started reaching out to coaches to try and figure out where I could use that last year of eligibility in addition to doing something that year to better myself for med school.
“The coaches here told me about the biomedical sciences graduate program and they had a previous athlete do the program and run for them. It worked out really nice because I was able to use my last year of eligibility and start this program and help get me into med school.”
Carter is “keeping an open mind” about what kind of doctor she wants to be, but through a Navy scholarship she could ultimately end up on either coast of the United States serving needs in the armed forces.
Short, also a Hurricane native, is the youngest of the bunch. She was Marshall’s top freshman distance runner this season while she started the fast-track option for medical school.
“I was accepted in high school into a seven-year program, so I will do my first three years of undergrad and then matriculate to Marshall’s med school,” Short said. “I’ll get my bachelor’s after my first year of med school.”
Short has aspirations of working as a plastic surgeon, particularly with cleft palates, although she has just started her journey toward becoming a doctor.
“I think having four people from one team headed to med school speaks to the hard work and dedication that overlaps between athletics and academics,” Short said. “As distance runners you really have to be disciplined and as med school applicants you have to have that same amount of focus and drive.”