For PCHS star athlete Mark McCurdy, track is another outlet and any success is a bonus
Park City High School junior Mark McCurdy sums up himself in his Instagram biography with a single word: sports.
It’s a fitting description of the 17-year-old.
During an interview after a recent track practice, McCurdy thought about what he does outside of school, and it basically boils down to socializing and sports, organized or not.
When he isn’t providing the football team with speed and a reliable set of hands at the wide receiver position, or playing point guard for the basketball team, or trying his hand at track in the 100-meter dash, long jump and high jump as he is this season, he doesn’t have much time for hobbies.
“I don’t think I’ve gone home right after school all year,” he said. “I’ve had either football, basketball or track, and afterwards I go home, eat dinner, start the homework and go to bed.”
That streak is likely to continue through the end of the spring sports season, but McCurdy has no problem with that. He said he joined the track team to spend more time with his friends, and improve himself during what would otherwise be an offseason for him.
On March 20, he participated in his first ever track meet — a mostly junior varsity meet at Juan Diego, where he opened his competitive track career by competing in high jump.
“It was pretty funny,” said Dave Yocum, Miners head track coach. “We all have expectations but you try to quell the expectations because you know he’s a good athlete.”
Yocum wasn’t disappointed.
“Unfortunately I was helping with the long jump, so I didn’t get to watch any of it,” Yocum said. “I missed the whole thing. He comes over afterward, like 15 minutes after he started, and he says ‘Well I won.’”
In practice, McCurdy had been reaching 5 feet and 8 inches on his high jump but cleared 5-foot-10 at the meet, which was enough to take first place.
Yocum congratulated him, then told him to warm up for long jump.
“He literally had not done any preparation work for long jump, because we don’t have a long jump runway at the moment,” Yocum said.
The PCHS field events areas are still covered in snow.
“We got his steps down, did three run-throughs, and let him jump. Won the meet on the first jump.”
By his third jump, McCurdy had reached 20 feet, 6 inches. For context, the school record is 21 feet, 8 inches, and McCurdy’s jump would have put him in the top 10 in any of the Class 4A, 5A or 6A state meets last season.
“It was pretty mellow,” he said of the Juan Diego competition. “I exceeded my expectations on how I would do.”
McCurdy spent his early years in Marago, California, just east of Oakland, where he played flag football and basketball starting in the third grade.
For a long time, it was basketball that he loved most. He played with the club team Eastbay Celtics in California, then played on Utah Premier through last summer, when he started seeing roadblocks his hopes of continuing the sport at the next level, including his height (6-foot-1).
At the same time, he was finding his role on the Miners football team.
He came in at starting quarterback his freshman year, then his classmate Jack Skidmore grew into the role and McCurdy moved to what he considers his natural position at wide receiver starting his sophomore year.
The 2018 football season was a sea change for McCurdy and his teammates.
“I feel like in football we made a bigger leap forward than we expected,” he said. “I knew we were going to be good. I knew we were underrated. I didn’t know personally that we were going to be that good, and I would have been surprised if you told me we were going to Rice Eccles last year.”
For McCurdy, it was a breakout season. Hardly a game passed without McCurdy pulling down a long-distance pass from Skidmore. Through that connection, he scored 17 touchdowns in 13 games, and was rewarded with a first-team All-State honor at the end of last season, when the Miners made it to the state semifinals for the first time in nearly a decade.
That season essentially changed McCurdy’s goals from seeking collegiate opportunities in basketball to focusing on football. He says he’s now talking to two Division I colleges about the possibility of playing football at the next level.
For Yocum, having an athlete like McCurdy show up for track is a windfall.
Yocum compares him to several talented athletes he’s coached over the years, like Ben Saarel, who ran distance events at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and sprinter Chelsea Shapard, who attended the University of Utah and was the NCAA Division I West region runner up in the 400 hurdles in 2009.
But he’s also among good company on the current track roster.
“Kate Esquivel, she could probably be one of the best female track runners in the state; Grace Dalton, same thing, she has that ability, Paul Baynes has that ability,” Yocum said. “And to tell you the truth, that group of juniors, we’ve got some really good athletes.”
McCurdy is not stressing about what he will and won’t achieve in track. He joined the team without hard goals.
“I’m trying to do the best I can and help the track team in whatever way I can,” he said. “But I just do it for fun to be out here with my friends.”
Potential collegiate attention for track was not part of his reasoning for joining the sport, he said, though he added it would be fun to be on a state-title-winning 4×100 team.
“It’s a team thing,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun when you can enjoy the glory with everyone else.”
He enjoys football for similar reasons, but in that sport, his goals are more clearly defined. Next season will be his last shot at a championship, and after making such large strides in 2018, he said he sees his career with the Miners ending just one way.
“Honestly, I expect to win a title in football,” he said. “I like to picture it positively. I haven’t really thought ‘Oh, what if we lose the game.’ I’m looking forward, not back.”
But for now, he is picking up everything he can from track, where he has just scratched the surface of his abilities.
“Every day is a sponge for him,” Yocum said. “He just takes it, applies it, goes to work. He has no idea how good he can be.”
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.