By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Cody McConnell isn't ready to leave yet.
He likes the City of Bridges; Ottumwa has been good to him. So, for McConnell, the internal tug to travel to new and exotic places hasn't been strong enough to point his compass away from the city.
But, as luck would have it, the Ottumwa senior cross country and track and field star can extend his running career without having to leave the city: McConnell signed a letter of intent to run for the Indian Hills Cross Country team last Tuesday at Ottumwa High School.
"I just wanted to start out kind of small," McConnell said, "get my feet wet a little bit. I enjoy running here and Indian Hills sounded like a great place and a great school."
Indian Hills coach Scott Barnes said signing runners like McConnell represents a positive step forward to building the program he envisions at the college.
"First of all his times stand out," Barnes said. "He's got really solid [5-kilometer race] times. He has a strong solid build for the 8K. We're looking at building a team that is top 25 and he's the type of caliber kid we definitely want to get in here. Like I said, his times speak for themselves. He's going to make a great college runner for sure."
One physical trait McConnell possesses that caught Barnes' eye is his build.
"He's got the perfect build for it [cross country," Barnes said, "With the increased distance [in college cross country] it's perfect to have his style of build."
McConnell's speed also made an impression on Barnes.
"His speed is the surprising thing," the coach said. "Even though it's a distant race, speed never hurts. His speed is definitely what stands out for him as a distance runner."
For McConnell, a two-time state qualifier in Class 4A cross country, another factor that enticed him to run for Indian Hills was the school offered the teaching program he wanted to major in: he will major in Elementary Education. No doubt an appropriate major for McConnell, who loves to teach and be around young kids.
After the Ottumwa track and field season reaches its conclusion, the Ottumwa senior, after a well-deserved short respite, will get right to work preparing to run for the Warriors.
"Right now, I'm doing a little bit of base mileage and a lot of speed workouts," McConnell said. "Once this track season stops, I'm going to take about two weeks off. And them I'm going to get my Indian Hills workout started, which consists of a lot of mileage. We're going to be running pretty long races, so I'm going to need to do a lot of mileage per day."
McConnell, who estimates he will run 8-10 miles per day this summer and fall, is currently in the midst of his senior season on the OHS track and field team. Most recently, McConnell captured fifth in the 1,600-meter run at the Osky Relays Saturday and, along with Roger Cruz, Alec Hensley and Dallas Keasling took third in the 4x800 in a time of 8:59.
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