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Brian McCants running way to history at Northeastern

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Worn down by time and the elements, the rabbit’s white face has lost its luster, rust-tinging its ears. As a two-time state champion on the track at Molloy, the pin that used to hold Brian McCants’ diaper together...

By Brian Towey

The pin is not what it used to be.

Worn down by time and the elements, the rabbit’s white face has lost its luster, rust-tinging its ears. As a two-time state champion on the track at Molloy, the pin that used to hold Brian McCants’ diaper together dangled from the back of his jersey, the rabbit grinning at the lagging competition.

As the gangly hurdler moved on to Northeastern University in Boston, the scenery changed, as did the competition, but the rabbit still rode along on the hurdler’s mesh uniform. McCants’ swift ascension up the track and field ladder has been marked by changes in coaches, changes in teammates and changes in scenery. But one thing has seen the sophomore through his meteoric rise on the oval.

“I’ve had this pin on the back of my jersey since I was at Molloy,” said McCants of his childhood trinket. “It’s kind of a good luck charm.”

It was with this rabbit that McCants won two state titles in the 400-meter hurdles in high school, attracting the attention of a slew of track programs. After moving on to Northeastern University in Boston, the pin made the trip up to Beantown. When McCants claimed the second of two America East Conference 500 meter crowns for Northeastern at the conference championship this winter, guess who tagged along.

“I’ve been really happy with how I’ve done at Northeastern so far,” said McCants. “I’m getting better every time I go out there.”

After gaining national recognition in his event as a senior, McCants had the opportunity to take his talents almost anywhere. After being courted by Georgetown and other major programs, he decided on Northeastern, a program smaller in stature than many that had romanced McCants, but a place where he could make a big splash. Not long after signing on with Northeastern, McCants helped lead the Huskies to the first of two consecutive indoor America East titles.

“We feel very fortunate to have Brian here with us at Northeastern,” said head track coach Sherman Hart. “He has been a catalyst in winning these championships. I’m really looking forward to see how he’ll do in the 400 hurdles this season.”

It was during a standout prep career at Molloy that McCants help lay the foundations for his collegiate exploits on the track. But the Rego Park native had no intentions of being a track star when he came to the school. It was only after the prodding of Bro. Patrick Hogan, the hurdles coach at Molloy, that he gave it a try.

“I never thought about running until Bro. Pat got me into it,” McCants said. “I wanted to play soccer. He asked me to run a few races and see how I liked it. After winning a few races, I was hooked.”

McCants has been fortunate enough to receive quality coaching on the different stops along the way. Whether it was Bro. Pat Hogan and Bro. Bob Andrews at Molloy or the staff at Northeastern, McCants has been the beneficiary of some great teachers.

“I came out of Molloy with great coaching,” McCants said. “And now I’ve got great coaching here. It just seems to get better and better.”

During the indoor campaign this past winter, McCants scored in three events to help propel Northeastern to their second straight conference championship. The sophomore recorded a second-place finish in the 500 meters at the New England championships, while also taking the silver in the same event at the IC4A championships, a meet showcasing the top talent in the East. The latter earned McCants the 11th fastest 500 meter time in the world this season.

On the outdoor circuit, McCants has turned in strong showings at both the Florida State Relays and the Maryland Invitational. After already earning a provisional qualifier for the NCAA outdoor championships in the 400-meter hurdles, McCants has his sights set on reaching the automatic standard and making some noise at the college championship.

“I would like to try and make it to NCAAs this season,” McCants said. “So far I’ve got the provisional qualifier, but I’m going to try and qualify automatica­lly.”

With an invite to the NCAA championships in reach, this could be an eventful spring for McCants. His said he coach likes the hurdler’s prospects of developing into one of the top 400-meter hurdlers in the country, if not the world.

“I think that if he continues to work at it,” Hart said, “that he could be one of the top 400-meter hurdlers in the world. I would like to see him get a shot at the Olympic team.”

Hart’s budding star’s goals are no less ambitious.

“I’d like to make the Olympics,” McCants said. “That’s my big thing.”

And he’ll have a floppy set of ears following him along the way.

Reach contributing writer Brian Towey by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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