They teach like the inherent natures of their sports.
Jared Connaughton is a professional international sprinter, a job in which gold medals or podium misses are essentially measured by the blink of an eye.
So he’s a well-run business meeting, precise, his movements calculated for maximum efficiency. He’s taut and muscular, chiselled, all edges and angles. Flab is not an option. Flab slows.
To form, the New Haven native’s language is correct, specific. He talks like he runs.
The metallic ping of a relay baton hitting the track echoes through the stadium. Someone in the group of young athletes, who signed up for the Athletics P.E.I. sprint and relay clinic at UPEI, dropped it.
“Hear that? That’s a sound you never want to hear,” Connaughton says, his voice sharpening. It does that when the athletes aren’t up to snuff; he sets loose a hard geometric smile followed by a real, if not exacting, compliment when they do something right.
On the other side of Alumni Canada Games Stadium, Kurt McCormack leads his charges through his jumps clinic.
McCormack is a well-medaled triple jumper on both sides of the United States-Canada border.
The Souris native is a graduate of Dickinson State University, an NCAA Division III school in North Dakota, and he’s loose as a surfer, talks in mellow wavy circuits like he’s a Volkswagen van ride away from a Jack Johnson concert.
All that’s missing is the gnarly board, dude.
His red-sneakered feet lift a lean leggy frame poles would be jealous of from the earth as though gravity were an afterthought, like gravity has forgotten its job for a moment and his legs exploited the fact. As if his bones were hollow and lent to him by birds.
He shoots upward. It’s that effortless. His feet probably frown in disappointment when they touch terra again.
McCormack’s young long jump and triple jump attendees look as rooted as trees in comparison. They listen to his ‘can’t change your world, but I can change a bit of it’ lesson and give their best, landing with plodding but honest sand splashes into the jump pit.
They want the same easy loftiness, the same casual launching, the same ability to scoff at Newton.
And they might get there, in time.
And time, for Connaughton and McCormack, at least in their competitive worlds, is something they can’t outrun or jump over. It’s out there, and it’s gaining.
But neither seem to mind, for there are compensations, diversions and pleasures to counter relentless time beyond their next event.
This time it’s the Canadian track and field championships this weekend in Moncton.
McCormack, 26, and his wife Marine have a six-month baby girl, and McCormack is a happy and busy personal fitness trainer in Charlottetown. He graduated from Dickinson State with a fitness and criminal justice degree in 2011.
“I have a 13-hour-a-day job. My wife is doing all the work with our daughter, God bless her,” said a smiling McCormack, who competes on Saturday.
But time has marked the 2013 Canadian triple-jump champ. Hip injuries related to triple-jumping have moved him to long jump this weekend. It’s a new event at the Canadian level for him, but not unknown. He competed in the event in his final year at Dickinson.
Connaughton runs in the 100-metre semifinal on Saturday and the 200-metres semis on Sunday. The finals are later on their respective days.
McCormack jumps in men’s long jump qualifier Saturday. The final is Sunday.
Connaughton, married almost three years ago to Tamesha Graves, a fellow University of Texas-Arlington alum, is aware of the same wear and tear. He’s 29 and been at the international level for nearly a decade.
Mental motivation is the driver these days not the physical for Connaughton, a two-time Olympian and 12-time medallist at the Canadian nationals. He’s a two-time 200 metres national champ.
“I’ve literally run thousands of corners. The warming up, with the headphones on, (getting prepared) at the track I’ve always enjoyed,” said Connaughton. “(These days) driving to the track is the hard part. And family is a priority.”
But don’t stick a fork in them. Connaughton and McCormack aren’t done, yet.
In a previous interview, McCormack has eyes for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and Connaugton was recently named to the Canadian relay team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games next month in Scotland.
So time may have to wait.
“Making the team a second time was quite an honour,” said Connaughton. “We’ll be in tough company.”
Connaughton is P.E.I.’s first two-time gold medallist at the Canada Games.
He reached the semifinals of the men’s 200 metres at the 2008 Olympic Games and missed a men’s 4x100 metre relay bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics after Canada was disqualified for a lane violation.
McCormack has silver and bronze medals from the senior nationals and is a two-time triple jumper winner in the Dakota Athletic Conference while attending Dickinson State.