From the time Colin Scanlon was a young child, it was clear that he would be an athlete.
The 18-year-old Sag Harbor resident was always in motion, and always interested in a variety of sports, from basketball and baseball to surfing and snowboarding. But above all, there was one thing that his mother, Allison Scanlon, noticed about him in particular: he was fast.
A former track and field standout herself, Ms. Scanlon said she knew her son had the potential to shine on that same stage. Her sister, Kristen Morwick, who coaches women’s track and field and cross country at Tufts, made the same assessment.
“We could tell right away he was going to be a runner,” Ms. Scanlon said in an interview last week.
Scanlon went on to star in several sports, joining the basketball team at the Stony Brook School, where he is currently a senior, while also competing on the cross country and track and field squads. And while he was a standout on the hardwood throughout his years there, it’s been his prowess at track — and in one event in particular — that has helped guide him to the next stage in his career.
Scanlon recently signed his letter of intent to attend Claremont-McKenna College, in Claremont, California, where he will be a member of the track and field team. The private liberal arts college, just outside of Los Angeles, has a highly competitive Division III track and field team, and Scanlon hopes to continue to shine in his signature event, the 400-meter hurdles. Scanlon is so dedicated to the sport, and to maintaining his competitive edge in that event in particular, that in March, when the Stony Brook School went virtual because of the virus and he moved out of his dorm and back home to Sag Harbor, he asked permission to take home a few hurdles, throwing them in the back of the family pick-up truck. Scanlon has used them to keep his hurdling skills sharp, often simply setting them up in his backyard at home.
While Scanlon has been a strong basketball player as well, track and field became the more natural fit for him when considering continuing his athletic career in college. As a sophomore, Scanlon posted a time of 55.6 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles. The time broke the school record and also ranked him sixth among all high school sophomores in the country in that event. Most importantly, it signaled his arrival as a serious track and field recruit.
Scanlon attracted interest from some big Division I programs, like Baylor University, and also drew interest from Brown University, a Division I Ivy League school.
Scanlon had hoped to re-break the school record last year and shave even more seconds off his impressive time, but of course the pandemic disrupted that plan, leading to the cancellation of the outdoor track season last year.
Scanlon has already been dealing with the disappointment of missing much, and possibly all, of his senior year on the basketball team, where he was expected to return to his role as the starting point guard. He’s hopeful that, no matter what happens with basketball, he will be able to enjoy one final track season. If that does happen, it’s unlikely there will be a New York State championship meet like there usually is, but Scanlon still has a clear goal in mind.
“Before COVID, my goal was the place in the top three at the state federation meet,” Scanlon said, referring to the championship meet that includes the best athletes from all New York schools, public and private. “This year, my biggest goal is to break the school record again.”
Scanlon admitted that his love for basketball will never wane, and even went as far as calling it his favorite sport.
“It’s much more fun,” he said with a laugh. “But I think I’m a much better natural track athlete.”
He spoke about his brother, Seamus, 19, a former sports star at Stony Brook, and 16-year-old sister, Niamh — who plays basketball at the Stony Brook School — and said they seemed to possess better hand-eye coordination than him, making them more natural fits for traditional team sports. He added when it comes to running, however, he has the advantage over them. He added that the fact that the 400-meter hurdles can be such a grueling event — because it requires essentially a full-lap sprint of the track, with the added difficulty of clearing 10 hurdles — has made it harder to love than basketball, but he still appreciates the overall experience.
“I love it not necessarily because of the event itself, but because of what comes with being on a team,” he said.
Scanlon also spoke about the recruiting process, his college search, and what drew him to a college across the country. He’d made a trip to California in 2019, visiting his older brother, Seamus, who attends Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles. During that time, he made a trip to Claremont-McKenna, where he was able to meet the track coach, Glenn Stewart, and get a feel for the campus.
“I really liked it, because even though it’s Division III, they’re in an extremely competitive conference, and it’s also an academically challenging school,” Scanlon said, adding that the ability to train and practice outdoors year round was an added appeal. He pointed out that, at most Division I programs, being an athlete leaves little time for other pursuits or interests that are part of the normal college experience and ultimately he did not want to give those things up. “It gives me the opportunity to run track and also study and do a lot of other things.”
In terms of that time he spends off the track, Scanlon said he’s considering majoring in film and media studies, and also has an interest in psychology. He likes that the liberal arts focus means there is broad range of choices, and added that he could possibly go on to graduate school there as well.
When it comes to his goals for track at the next level, Scanlon wants to continue to improve and set goals, but also keep an open mind.
“The team makes nationals pretty consistently, so I want to compete at nationals,” he said. “I guess when I get there and see how I fit in, I’ll assess further goals from there, but for now, I’d really like to get to the national meets. I just think it would be a really cool experience.”