With a rare combination of raw athleticism and persistent determination, freshman sprinter Alexander McElwee has already marked his territory as one of PCC’s most notable sprinters.
In only his third year running track competitively, the Arcadia High School product has made a name for himself and the Lancers in both the 200 and 400-meter races.
“Alex is a very hard worker,” first year assistant coach Mikele “Miki” Barber said. “He’s very dedicated and disciplined. When I first met him he was kind of rough and tough and just very determined and I didn’t know that he had just started running track about three or four years ago. Some people just have it and Alex has all the tools to be a successful runner. He’s very dedicated and that’s what I like about him.”
McElwee excelled early in the season with two first-place finishes at the Cerritos Invitational in February. McElwee raced a 48.51 time to win the 400-meters, which was the fourth fastest time in the state at the time. His first place in the 200 was the region’s top mark (fifth in the state) at 21.65.
“From the first day Alex came in he has been very focused,” head coach Armand Crespo said. “He already had his mind made up as far as getting a full ride scholarship. As coaches we try to motivate him and keep him going. He’s improved tremendously but it’s really just the work that he’s done in the off-season. That was the most important thing, he came to PCC in great shape and was ready.”
A former high school cornerback, McElwee attributes his athleticism and performance to a very disciplined regimen and diet, which includes a routinely healthy breakfast of egg whites, toast and bacon. McElwee also drinks a gallon of water every day before practice and another half gallon at home after practice.
“I work harder,” McElwee said of his discipline.
“I’ve been running track for a long time and he’s someone who can excel off his natural ability,” Barber added. “He has the build, he has the stamina and the speed to be a successful sprinter. I know he can be an NCAA Division 1 champion.”
Although McElwee is only a freshman, Crespo believes that the athletic sprinter has the ability to compete against the best in the state.
“I think that’s part of the package,” Crespo said of McElwee’s ability to make the state championships. “What he wanted and kind of what we like with our athletes is to not think about the title, but to think about running fast and the title will come. If he runs 45 seconds this year and he does it at the state meet, I don’t think anyone can beat him.”
Earlier this month McElwee excelled at the Cal State Los Angeles Invitational where he finished first in the 400 meters (47.15), which was a state record at the time. McElwee also turned in the state’s second fastest time in the 200 as he took second place overall with a 21.21 time. Only American River’s Robert Ellis has run faster in the 200 at 21.19.
Although McElwee has already excelled on the field and in the classroom, the kinesiology major continues to set his goals fairly high despite already being one of the top runners in the state. Even with the fastest time in the state, McElwee is never content with himself and admitted to never being satisfied with his accolades.
“I have to know that now I’m striving for something bigger than having the best time in the state,” McElwee said. “I want to progress my time so eventually I’ll qualify for the Olympics and stuff like that. I want to keep progressing because my ultimate goal is to race in the Olympics. This is just a little step, I have to keep going and keep getting better.”
McElwee has continued to improve throughout the season and he proved he’d be a force come postseason time by breaking his previous state fastest time in the 400 meters at the Oxy Distance Carnival on March 13. McElwee won in a new 2015 top state time of 46.84 seconds, improving his previous time by .31 of a second in winning the event.
“I think Alex can easily break his record again,” Barber said. “I think he can run a high 45.8, he can possibly make it to the U.S Championships. I see it in him—he’s a natural.”
“It feels good but I know I could do a lot better,” McElwee said of running the fastest 400 in the state. “I’m trying to break my record every week. The coaching staff has definitely taught me how to come in every day and get my work done. Ever since I came here [to PCC] I really finish my workouts and progress every day because of them and the expectations they hold me to every day at practice.”
Although McElwee has already recorded the fastest times in the state in the 400, both he and the coaching staff know that this is only the beginning of a very special career.
“I think the goal is to break the school record, he’s that type of athlete,” Crespo said. “If he continues to improve he can go to any university because his grades are very well. That’s the most important thing that he will be able to transfer with his grades and be ready to compete at the next level.”
The next big test for McElwee is the Mt. SAC relays on April 11 where the freshman sprinter will compete against university level competition.