Former Titan Jordan McNamara spent the summer of 2013 proving that he is one of the premiere mile runners in America.
After running a personal best 3:34.00 mile in Oordegem, Belgium on July 6, McNamara now owns the third fastest American mile time and the fastest ever from the state of Washington.
One of the most successful distance runners in Lane history, McNamara was a four-time NWAACC champion for the Titans, an NCAA All-American at the University of Oregon and is now has his sights set on qualifying for the 2014 World Track and Field Indoor Championships.
Now competing for Eugene-based Oregon Track Club Elite, McNamara has accomplished almost everything a distance runner can in one of tracks most historic cities.
During the 2012 Olympics trials at Hayward Field, McNamara finished seventh in the 1,500-meter final and missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympics team by fewer than two seconds.
So after accomplishing so much, what keeps McNamara coming back to Eugene?
“With distance running, you have to be happy in your entire life — not just when you’re at practice — and when I’m here, I enjoy it,” McNamara said. “I go for runs and hear people say, ‘Jordan, you’re the man. Keep training. Keep working hard.’ It’s just good to know that what you’re doing matters.”
Although he now calls it home, Eugene wasn’t McNamara’s first choice.
After placing third in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events at the Washington State Championships during his senior year at Auburn-Riverside High School in Seattle, McNamara committed to run for the University of Washington.
However, after only one season of cross-country and indoor track and field, McNamara decided it was time for a change.
“I wasn’t fulfilling my potential there and I knew that. I needed to be somewhere where I could be fully committed to running, where the community was fully committed to running,” McNamara said. “I’m the kind of guy who never wants to live with any regrets, so I packed my bags and came down to TrackTown, USA.”
McNamara planned to transfer to the University of Oregon after then-track and field head coach Vin Lananna offered him a scholarship.
He admits that he wasn’t on the Ducks’ radar after his senior year of high school.
“They didn’t know who I was and it was kind of funny,” McNamara said. “After I made my visit to Oregon and showed them my times from high school, Vin kinda looked at the assistant coach and was like, ‘What the heck were we thinking?’”
NCAA rules forbid athletes from transferring from one Pac-12 school to another in the same year, which left McNamara with few options.
He could either sit out the 2007-08 season and lose a full year of eligibility, or he could spend the year at a junior college and continue competing before transferring.
He chose to spend the year competing for the Titans. It was a decision that may have saved his career.
McNamara says that before arriving at Lane, he spent more time recovering from injury than he did training. He suffered multiple stress fractures that would take anywhere from four to six weeks to heal.
Ross Krempley, the Titans’ head cross-country coach at the time, was able to find a formula that kept McNamara healthy and set him up for one of the greatest individual seasons in school history.
“The biggest secret with Jordan is that he likes to push the boundaries sometimes. So he and I had an understanding, that I would look at his training log personally every week, because I knew he wouldn’t lie in his training log,” Krempley said.
This allowed Krempley to make constant adjustments to McNamara’s training program on a week-to-week basis and tone down the intensity of his workouts when needed.
“Jordan knows that it only takes a couple days or weeks of training too hard to go back to that past, to get injured again,” Krempley said. “Once that clicked in his head, that was it. We knew he was going to be successful.”
McNamara says that the close relationship he had with Krempley and the rest of the Lane coaches is something that was missing during his time at University of Washington.
“Ross just had a low-pressure approach to racing. He told me, ‘go out and do what you can’ and he just got me fit. Once I started to get good results, my confidence rose and by the time I left Lane, I knew I could be one of the best in the country,” McNamara said.
During the 2006-07 season, McNamara won four NWAACC individual titles, earned All-American honors in four different events and led the Titans to a second-place conference finish in both cross-country and track.
He still holds the school records in the 1,500-meter (3:41.13), the mile (4:03.36), the 5,000-meter (14:09.01) and the 10,000-meter (29:36.33) events.
“Jordan’s a phenom,” Lane track and field head coach Grady O’Connor said. “As far as an NWAACC athlete goes, with everything he accomplished, he pretty much left it all. He couldn’t have done anymore.”
McNamara’s success carried over at University of Oregon, where he earned All-American honors in the 5,000 meter in 2010 and qualified for the NCAA finals in 2009 in the 1,500-meter.
After his time with the Ducks, McNamara was given the opportunity to run for Oregon Track Club Elite, but was told that he would have to prove himself before he earned funding.
“It got tough. I had another job and was working 40 hours per week and also training twice a day 90 miles per week,” McNamara said. “But I’m a big believer that if you care about something enough, you’ll make time for it. I refused to take no for an answer and I finally started to get the results I wanted.”
McNamara experienced the breakthrough season he had beenwaiting for in 2012, while competing in the European professional tour.
He ran a 1,500-meter personal best of 3:53.63 — seven seconds better than his best time at Lane — and improved his 5,000-meter time by 11 seconds.
He had the chance to compete on track and field’s biggest stage, when he ran in the 1,500-meter finals at Hayward Field and placed seventh, narrowly missing a spot on the U.S. Olympics team.
“It was awesome. It was a big emotional experience. Obviously everyone’s fighting just as hard as you are to make it because, I mean, this is the Olympic trials,” McNamara said. “I didn’t make the team, but I finished a little over a second away … I did everything I could on that day and walked away with no regrets.”
McNamara said that the highlight of his summer was running at the Olympic Stadium in London, where he set his personal best mile time of 3:52.40 in front of a crowd of 65,000.
“Hayward packs 8,000 people, so imagine eight Hayward Fields. (That) brought tears to my eyes,” Mcnamara said. “I felt like I was in the World Series. It really was one of the most daunting, incredible, awe-inspiring things I’ve ever done in my life.”