Ocean City High School senior runner Casey McLees doesn’t really have an offseason.
Three of the seasons are with the Red Raiders, as the 17-year-old resident of the Palermo section of Upper Township runs cross country in the fall, and winter and spring track. Then there’s more running in the summer as a lifeguard with the Upper Township Beach Patrol.
“All three high school seasons are fun in their own way,” McLees said. “I go back and forth about whether I like cross country or track better. Lifeguard racing is a nice change of pace. It’s a fourth season, but it’s different.”
McLees won the South Jersey Group III outdoor championship in the 3,200 in May of 2019 in 11 minutes, 40.94 seconds. She was second in the 1,600 in the same meet.
Also that month, she won the Cape-Atlantic League Championship in the 1,600 in 5:23.73. She also won the Cape May County 1,600 in 5:27.23. In cross country, McLees won the Cape May County Championship in 2018 and 2019, and she finished second as a sophomore in 2017.
McLees will continue her education and running career at La Salle University in Philadelphia in the fall. She’ll receive a partial scholarship that’s athletic and academic, and plans to major in nutrition and dietetics.
She also visited Rutgers, George Washington, George Mason and West Chester.
McLees started running seriously in sixth grade, and now she runs anywhere from 35 to 45 miles a week.
“Running is a matter of consistency. It’s good for me and I like to run. It makes me happy,” she said. “Most people hate it, but if you have consistency, it’s something you get to enjoy.”
McLees got to be on a segment of “Good Morning America” on ABC in October after the Ocean City girls and boys cross country teams waited for 12 hours at Philadelphia International Airport for a flight to Orlando, Florida, for the Disney Cross Country Classic. The Red Raiders’ original 6 p.m. flight was canceled. Following the flight, the boys won the team scoring at the meet, and the girls placed second. McLees led the Red Raiders with a sixth-place finish.
“It’s one of my favorite memories,” McLees said. “I have a recording of it (the “Good Morning America” segment). It’s funny how it all worked out. We waited together, and we took off early the next morning. We showed up in our hotel (in Orlando) at about 7 a.m. We slept between 7 and 10 a.m. and raced between 1 and 2 p.m. We came in second against 15 to 20 teams. We saw (Walt Disney World) the next two days in the park. We were celebrating being there.”
Bill McLees, Casey’s father, was a crew coxswain for Ocean City, and her mother, Debbie, was a softball player for Mainland Regional. Casey’s older sister, Morgan, attends the University of Pennsylvania. Billy, her younger brother, is a sophomore at St. Augustine Prep.
In a recent telephone interview, McLees discussed many topics including why she chose La Salle, family vacations and her diet:
On why she picked La Salle
The girls on the team were very nice, very welcoming. They wanted me to be there. I felt like one of their friends, and that helped me to make the decision. Our Ocean City team is close too. We all hang out together. It was important to me to be on a (college) team that’s just as close, if not even closer.
It feels pretty amazing to be going there. The men’s and women’s cross country teams both won the won the Atlantic 10 Championship (on Nov. 2 in Leesburg, Virginia). They’re really motivated to be successful.
On watching her diet
I try not to have too much dairy and eat things with less gluten. I prefer natural foods and not a lot of white-flour food.
On where she’d like to travel
I’d like to go to Fiji with the family. It has a big beach.
My dad and I like to surf, and my whole family used to.
On taking vacations with the family
We’ve been to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Everyone in the family went. About seven years ago, we all went across the country to California in an RV. It was during spring break and took 14 days. I really liked traveling in Arizona. Sedona (in Arizona) was a really nice town.
On training during COVID-19 shutdown
My running is about the same, and I think it’s keeping me sane rather than staying home. I do strength training and cross training at home and do yoga.
On other sports she used to play
I pretty much played every sport. I played soccer and softball, and I played basketball forever. I did cheerleading in kindergarten. I danced and swam. I was on the (Ocean City) C-Cerpents (Swim Club) when I was under 10 years old, and I was an Upper Township junior lifeguard.
On what it’s like to be on beach patrol
I love the beach patrol, and they’re some of my best friends. It’s so fun and very rewarding. The races are fun and exhilarating. I do the runs (including the surf dash), and in the future I’m hoping to do the boat or swim.