ANTIGONISH - An Antigonish native has garnered a national award for his volunteer efforts.
Paul MacLellan, a fifth-year senior with the St. F.X. X-Men cross country team, is the 2019 U Sports Cross Country Student-Athlete Community Service Award recipient.
“Honestly, I am over the moon,” the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals’ product said in a Friday afternoon phone interview from Kingston, Ontario, where the X-Men and X-Women will compete in the U Sports cross country national championship meet Saturday (Nov. 9).
Considering the calibre of the nominees from the other conferences, the AUS representative said he was “shocked and surprised,” when his named was called as the winner on the previous evening.
“They had a lot of experience – both as runners and volunteers,” MacLellan noted of the conference winners.
The accounting student in the St. F.X. Schwartz School of Business has achieved academic and athletic success not only this season, but also throughout his time at his hometown university.
While boasting an academic average of 87 per cent, MacLellan also provides his time to initiatives, such as Fit-4-Tots, the St. F.X. Student Food Resource Centre and the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Hope and Dreams initiative.
“It helps make the community much stronger and closer,” he said, when asked about the importance of volunteering.
MacLellan added how much he enjoys making connections and developing friendships during that work.
“I love getting to know people,” he said.
Eric Gillis, X-Men cross country head coach, called MacLellan “as dedicated a student-athlete as they come.”
“On top of his studies and running, he is always up for helping at a moment’s notice. This spirit of giving back to his community and school is admired by many, including this team,” Gillis added, in a St. F.X. Athletics press release.
MacLellan talked about the challenge of balancing his schedule as a student-athlete with volunteer work.
“Sometimes, it is not an easy task,” he said.
Over his university years, MacLellan added, he has become “more adept” at setting his schedule.
“During times when it becomes a lot, I remember how great it is to work with and get to know so many great people,” he explained.
MacLellan added he has had “so much fun” with everyone he has met during those experiences.
On the course
The U Sports honour comes on the heels of a memorable final varsity cross country campaign for MacLellan.
“It was slow going in the beginning, but I got stronger and stronger when I started to build up mileage during our workouts,” he said.
MacLellan noted the importance of his X-Men teammates.
“They challenged me and really pushed me; I am so thankful for their support,” he added.
MacLellan said a turning point for him came at the UQAM Interlock Invitational, where he finished 12th in a strong field, while the X-Men raced to third place.
“It gave me a great confidence boost,” he added.
The three-time AUS cross country all-star used that effort as a springboard to a silver-medal performance – two weeks later (Oct. 26) – at the conference championship in Fredericton.
One day before his final race in the White and Blue – at the U Sports championship meet hosted by Queen’s University – MacLellan said he is “more excited than nervous.”
“I want to make the best of it,” he added.
MacLellan also wants to set an example for his X-Men teammates.
“It is always about going the distance,” he said.