LA GRANDE — Over this past summer, one sophomore from La Grande High School would go through his regular routine. In the middle of his day, with his shoes tied and his headphones plugged in, he would run numerous miles with one goal in mind: to get better.

That was the Tigers own cross-country/track and field runner Dima McCarthy.

Last year, McCarthy entered Alma Crow’s cross-country program in the fall. Knowing his career in running was young, just beginning in middle school the year before, Crow saw how difficult the training was for him at the beginning of last year.

“He just didn’t have that base that all the other kids had, where they’ve already been running with me since middle school, or that whole summer. Dima was new to the program completely,” Crow said.

After competing in his first full high school cross-country season, and never given the chance to compete in track and field due to COVID-19, McCarthy decided to amp up his training, running every day in summer to prepare for this year.

“Every day I would run and it would make me feel good that I would get better times, and it would make me want to get better times every time I would run,” McCarthy said. “Also, my dad would say to find out how great you would be, and what your body can do, so for me I know what I actually could do and how great I could succeed in this sport.”

Through the encouragement of his parents, McCarthy made an effort to run during the summer, to be in even better shape for his sophomore season.

“I just really wanted to succeed and to see how my times improved, and see how better I can get during the season,” McCarthy said.

So McCarthy began to run about 20 miles a week, running paths and distances he had run in the past, especially one that Crow makes her program run on Island Avenue. Crow even saw McCarthy running early in the morning.

“I thought, ‘Gosh who is that kiddo?’” she said. “And it was Dima. So I was very impressed, and I pulled over and started to honk at him, and I was like, ‘Good job, Dima,’ and he was just in the zone. It is 8:10 in the morning, it is windy, going on Island Avenue, and this kid has been running.”

The hardest part of this training for McCarthy was sticking to the training schedule and avoiding taking time off.

“It was hard to every day wake up, knowing that I am going to be doing the same thing over and over again,” McCarthy said. “Not a lot of kids would want to just get up and do the running. For me that was kind of hard, but the easiest was keeping myself motivated to do it, knowing that if I keep doing that, I will succeed and get better at it.”

McCarthy’s hard work seemingly paid off. He surpassed his personal record (from the Oregon School Activities Association state championship meet last fall with 19:18.10) at the Baker meet March 12 with 19:17.50. After the weekend, at the Tour de Willowcreek in Vale, McCarthy eclipsed his last run by nearly a minute, gaining a personal record time of 18:20.30.

“It’s a tremendous leap. That just shows how hard he has been working all season, because with running you have to have that base,” Crow said. “If you don’t have that base, there’s just no way you will have those times.”

McCarthy is content with his most recent time running out in Vale.

“If you work hard, you can achieve the things you (want to) achieve and that will make you happy,” he said.

Crow has begun to realize the example McCarthy sets for his fellow runners.

“He never complains, he has done every single workout with no complaints, even when he’s tired. He cheers on his teammates, shows a positive attitude toward them to keep them going, because he knows those type of workouts are not easy,” Crow said.

Striving to continue to improve, McCarthy said he is eager to dive into his first season for the La Grande Tigers track and field team.

“I’m excited to do the 400. I want to get better times now, especially maybe doing long distance to see how (good) I can get at it,” McCarthy said.

Only halfway through his time at high school, McCarthy is choosing to focus on the task in front of him rather than where his running career may take him.

“I’m just thinking of high school and just how much better I can get, and if there’s a scholarship that comes up I’ll take it, but right now I am just focusing on improving myself,” he said.

For cross-country, Crow expects McCarthy will perform strong for his remaining high school seasons.

“I hope he can get some titles under his belt. I know he will be able to do that, from how hard he works, it’s just a matter of when for him,” Crow said. “His future in running is really bright.”

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