The Eastern Michigan University coaching staff had a feeling about the 800-meter run ahead of the Mid-American Conference indoor track and field championships.

“The 800 was the event that we circled that we had to perform and our guys had to outperform their seeds as an event,” said Mark Rinker, Eastern Michigan assistant coach for middle distance and distance runners, of the men’s program’s chances of winning its second consecutive MAC men’s championship.

Luckily for Eastern Michigan, it had the right man for the job.

Freshman Carson McCoy, a 2022 Deer Lakes graduate, won the 800-meter run in 1:51.97 to capture his first MAC title in a performance that went a long way toward ensuring the Eastern Michigan men’s team outlasted Kent State, 171-160, to earn the 17th indoor conference championship and second in as many seasons.

“He had a lot of pressure riding on him, but he went to win the race,” said Rinker of the MAC championship race held over the final weekend of February at Bowling Green University. “He came through at the line. It was a photo finish that was pretty much the turning point for our team title. There was a lot of pressure riding on a freshman, but he delivered. That’s the kid he is.”

It’s the type of athlete he has been for quite some time.

McCoy often found himself atop podiums after a stellar career at Deer Lakes. He has three WPIAL and three PIAA championships to his credit.

“I think since states my junior year I haven’t lost a championship race,” said McCoy, who was named first-team all-conference. “I think when I’m in an environment when I’m just racing to win, rather than just running for a time, I just feed off of that. It’s a lot easier mentally for me to settle in when I know I just have to win the race.”

It was that type of mindset that Rinker said attracted Eastern Michigan to McCoy during the recruiting process.

“He’s a great kid,” Rinker said. “He’s super coachable. He’s a big kind of fan of the sport, and [he wants] to understand training and what we do and why we do it. Overall, he’s a really good kid, and that was pretty evident really quickly — I guess two years ago now, 18 months ago — that he just really fit with the kind of culture we want in our program.”

Rinker said things began slowly for McCoy at Eastern Michigan. He said McCoy only began to seriously train as a track athlete during his junior season at Deer Lakes, which came after the COVID-19 pandemic erased his sophomore campaign.

McCoy competed in cross country during the fall and only ran the 800-meter run during the indoor season.

“Right now as we are looking at developing him, I am trying to be kind of cautious and slow and not overdo things with him because he’s still pretty young to running,” Rinker said.

When Eastern Michigan’s outdoor season begins Friday at Central Florida’s Black and Gold Invite in Orlando, McCoy said he will again run the 800-meter event but will also add the 1,500-meter run to his repertoire.

Rinker said he also sees the mile run and a leg of Eastern Michigan’s 1,600-meter relay in McCoy’s future at some point of his career.

“I think that I’ve just gotten overall a lot stronger from just running a little bit more mileage and just became a lot more mentally tough than I had been in previous years,” McCoy said. “Just having a good team environment to train in just boosted my training a lot more than it was in high school.”

McCoy earned his first collegiate first-place finish when he won the 800 meters in 1:51.18 on Jan. 21 at the Notre Dame Invitational. He then finished in 35th place at Boston University’s David Hemery Valentine Open the weekend of Feb. 10 but recorded a personal-best time of 1:51.05.

Eastern Michigan’s Carson McCoy, right, competes at the MAC Cross Country Championships Oct. 29 in Athens, Ohio. (Eastern Michigan Athletics)

“The biggest strength that he has racing wise is he’s famous and well known at the Pennsylvania state meet and the MAC meet for having a huge kick,” Rinker said. “He’s strong, and he’s tough, and he closes races really, really well.”

McCoy’s ability to finish strong served him well in the MAC championships.  With 200 meters left in the 800-meter final, Rinker said McCoy was two seconds behind the race’s leader before he eventually finished ahead of Kent State junior Quintin Cooks to win the race.

“I think that my biggest strength is probably my kick,” McCoy said. “Ever since probably the end of my junior year it’s kind of been my thing.

“It’s definitely nice to have that at the end of the race,” he added. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to use it as much and I put myself in better positions, but it’s something that’s good to have and be able to rely on.”

Rinker said McCoy is focusing on continuing to develop his physical and aerobic strength.

McCoy said he is currently running about 50 miles per week during training, which is up from his 40 to 45 miles he ran a week in high school.

“Hopefully, I’m not going to set anything too time specific, but the goal is to win the outdoor MAC championship and then hopefully qualify for NCAA regionals as well,” he said.

That sounds about right to his coach.

“I don’t want to put any undo pressure on him,” Rinker said, “but I think he’s an NCAA-level guy.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at