The former Vicki Verinder won the Virginia AAA cross country meet as a senior in 1983 to help Langley to the team title and later captured state gold in the 1,600 meters at both the indoor and outdoor meets.
She met Kevin McGorty, a decathlete who went on to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials in 1988 and 1992, on the track in high school.
However, the couple always wanted Sean McGorty to set his own path. He grew up playing soccer and basketball seriously, competing in Chantilly Youth Association (CYA) track for fun on the weekends starting in second grade.
“They let me figure out for myself if I actually liked it,” McGorty said.
There were early signs of his future running success. Vicki McGorty remembers the soccer parents who would joke that the lanky defender had “a third lung” because of his uncommon endurance.
“He had the highest level of pain tolerance I ever seen for a kid that age,” said Ed Lull, a family friend who still runs the CYA track program. “I think a lot of that came from the soccer.”
At Chantilly, McGorty planned to play basketball in the winter and soccer in the spring, but he had an opening in the fall. Vicki, of course, suggested cross country.
From the start, McGorty flashed potential, emerging as one of the area’s best freshmen even as he continued to balance his responsibilities with Herndon Real Juniors, one of the state’s top club soccer teams.
On Sept. 13, 2009, McGorty ran in borrowed shoes at the Monroe Parker Invitational, winning the freshman race in record time (16:45) and then jumped in the car to make it to a soccer tournament on time.
The balancing act couldn’t continue forever. McGorty opted to run indoor track, passing on basketball tryouts. Then he chose outdoor track over high school soccer. Finally in May 2010 he gave up club soccer, too.
“We always said I’d go sophomore year without soccer, and if I missed it, I would go back,” McGorty said. “I never really looked back, I guess.”
Over the past three years, McGorty has focused on running and taking his career to the next level.
Part of the progress can be attributed to a singular mind-set for improvement that extends off the track and into the classroom where McGorty sports a 4.3 grade point average. He plans to major in business or engineering while on full athletic scholarship at Stanford.
On the bulletin board above the desk in the only bedroom he’s ever known, McGorty keeps a neatly typed list of goals pinned up next to several bible verses and quotes from great runners such as Steve Prefontaine and Sebastian Coe.
Over the years the lists have changed to reflect changing expectations, but those who know him best say he’s reached new heights because of his consistency.
“What’s neat is none of this has gone to his head,” Vicki McGorty said. “He’s still just Sean.”