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 Martin Fagan Bidding to Become the 3rd Irishman to win NCAA Title
by: PJ Browne
November 20, 2005

 Martin Fagan, the 22- year old Mullingar native, is the newest talent to emerge in Irish athletics. A series of impressive runs for Providence College has confirmed his status as an elite athlete. The versatile Providence senior has flourished under the patient guidance of coach Ray Treacy, and he will be a significant addition to the Irish team for the Euro CC in Tilbury.

 Fagan will run in the NCAA National Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana. He has been all but dismissed as a contender. However,this title was never won by the pollsters and the pundits and its naive to rule him out.  "It's the biggest race of my career, but I'm not intimidated," he says. "I'm ready to mix it up with these guys. My confidence is at a new level."

As a junior in Ireland, Fagan was burdened with expectation after a remarkable 3k performance (8:12.17) at the 2001 Morton Memorial meet. Further success was slow in coming. Ray Treacy explains: "Some athletes mature earlier competitively, as did my brother John. Others take time, and that was the case with Martin. He is only now emerging and delivering on that early promise."

In winning the Big East at Van Cortland Park in October, Fagan shattered the course record at the spiritual home of American cross- country. His time of 23.48 over the 8k track broke a 27- year old record. At two miles the race was effectively over, and Fagan was an easy winner maintaining an average 4:47 per mile.

 His next outing was the Northeastern Regionals at Franklin Park in Boston. After leading for almost the entire distance with Richard Kiplagat (Iona) sitting right on him, Fagan was outsprinted in the final straightway and four seconds behind Kiplagat in 29:15.6. A narrow defeat but another sign that Fagan has arrived.

"Last year he had a very nice track season and a good summer back home," Treacy says. "He was running very well and gaining in confidence. That confidence carried over to the cc season. Right now he's just keeping it going for the NCAA's and the Europeans."

" His run at VCP was brilliant, but realistically, the NCAA this year is the deepest in a long, long time. A top 10 would be a good result. He will be up against sub-28 minute 10k runners and they have to be respected. He's certainly in the mix, and we want him to finish as high as possible."

As a youngster, Fagan was a keen hurler: "I loved hurling, especially Kilkenny hurling. DJ Carey was my idol, and I found it hard to leave the game for athletics at 16. Once I started running with the lads in the club I heard all these stories about John Treacy. When Ray came to recruit me and talked to the family, it was an easy decision to go to Providence. I would not have got to where I am now had I stayed at home."

 When athletics supplanted hurling for Fagan, Treacy saw the potential: "He was always very talented. There was never any doubt in my mind about that. He's matured as a runner. He's gained in confidence over the last couple of years."

" It's all about confidence. He will run very fast times in track next summer. He has a fantastic career ahead of him. This is just the beginning for Martin; he's showing how good he is, and there will be great performances over the next few years."

One of Fagan's strong points is his appetite for distance. He won a half marathon in Longford this summer in 1:06.38. "He's got a great engine, loves to run longer distances, which is unusual," says Treacy. "Mind you he is very quick. He has miler speed, and a solid sub-4 minute mile is well within his range. The 10k is probably his favourite, and the goal on time is to get him close to 28 minutes."

Fagan, though quiet and unassuming, has enjoyed the success, the recognition and the camaraderie. His family is beginning to understand the magnitude of what he is doing. Fagan is the youngest and has four older sisters. "They are starting to see my name on the Internet a lot more." he says. "They wouldn't be huge athletic fans but they're catching on and they're one hundred percent behind me."

  Fagan is guarded about the future. "I'm getting a great buzz out of this season," he says. "I have tremendous support from Ray, Keith Kelly, and training with the likes of Mark Carroll and those guys is just grand. They are so professional."

" I feel a lot more confident in my abilities, and I have learnt to be patient. The level of competition over here is very high week in week out. My immediate goal after the NCAAs is to run the European cross in December. From training and being around all the guys you learn not to look too far ahead. Keith has been great about that part of it."

Treacy dismisses the argument that Irish athletics is at a low point. He explains: "The talent is there, but the dominance of the African countries has taken away from what the European and Irish athletes are doing. It's very hard to show on the world stage, but we can be competitive in Europe as we always have been. That is the point really. And that's what people should be looking at. All going well, Martin will be a big presence in Irish athletics for years to come. "  

Fagan hopes to remain in the States after graduating from Providence: "I'm going on four years here now and I hope that I can stay on. I want to give it a go as a professional athlete and my best chance for doing that is here. The training facilities are top class, and there is a great bunch of lads to train with."

" I really enjoyed running with Mark Carroll and it was an eye opener to see how hard he trains. There is no shortage of top class training partners and it is easy to plan a racing schedule. It would be very difficult for me to do that back home. Of course things can change, but for now I want to see what happens in the NCAA championships and then set my sights on the Europeans in December."

Prediction:  

With the depth of talent in this year's race it's a big ask to pick a winner. But in keeping with the rest, it says here that Fagan will be in the first 5. Take that Mr. Grote!!!!

PJ  Browne

Irish Runner Magazine, celebrating 25 years this year.  


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