Long-distance running is nothing new to Monument Mountain's Weyessa ‘Ace' McAlister. He's run his whole life. He won a Central-Western Mass. championship this spring in the two-mile run.
He's just never done it competitively in the fall -- until now.
McAlister plans to join the Spartans' cross country team when it begins practice next Thursday, having been approved for an eligibility waiver by the MIAA in July.
He will be in his fifth year of school this fall at Monument, but McAlister said that, when he came to the U.S. four years ago from Ethiopia, he spoke no English and needed two years to learn the language before catching up with a regular high-school course load. He is on track to graduate in the spring of 2015.
McAlister was granted an extra semester of athletic eligibility for a sport in which he had never participated. Previously, he had played soccer for the Spartans in the fall.
"I'm a long-distance guy," he said. I feel like I can get along well with cross country."
Paul Gibbons, the Monument Mountain athletic director, said the school applied for a waiver for McAlister at the end of last school year. The staff then reviewed the case and approved it for one semester only, and not for soccer or track and field.
Naturally, McAlister stuck with running.
"There are no other sports I could do," he said, before joking, "Even though some football [players] tried to recruit me, I was like, ‘Just one hit and I'd be dead.
Provided he is able to parlay his distance-running success on the track to trail success on cross country courses, McAlister should be a stellar addition to a Monument Mountain team that has qualified for the Division II state meet as a team in each of the last two fall seasons.
McAlister said he has spoken with Spartans coach Ted Collins, as well as other area coaches and runners who are experienced in cross country.
"My plan is just to stay on top and make it to states and New Englands. That's my hope," McAlister said.
From there, he hopes he can catch the eyes of major college recruiters. He's thinking big, too.
"There are a lot of colleges who have sent me letters throughout the last year," McAlister said. "I haven't gotten any Division I schools [but one]. I'm hoping for one."
To reach Matthew Sprague:
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @BE_MSprague.