Evan Correll Can Rest In December
by Al Daniel
Evan Correll has set himself up for an exhausting November.
On Sunday, Nov. 5, Correll will compete in the men’s wheelchair division of the 2023 New York City Marathon, which acts as the U.S. wheelchair marathon qualifier for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.
After a brief breather, Correll will log a few more training sessions before a Nov. 14 flight to Santiago, Chile, site of the 2023 Parapan American Games. Once there, he will have three more sleeps to fire up for the 100-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter T54 races, all stuffed into another 10-day package of Nov. 17-26.
When asked over the phone how he will meet that demanding turnaround, Correll practically shrugged with his voice.
“Yeah, it’s going to be quite a change-up. Luckily my training regimen is pretty good,” he said. “I think I’ll be all right.”
Going back to the 2022 New York City Marathon, he has been better than all right. At this time last year, he was a sophomore at the University of Illinois and had completed two marathons.
“I was hoping to get around top five, maybe sixth or seventh,” the Waukee, Iowa, native said. “But definitely did better than that.”
At 1 hour, 37 minutes, 1 second, he finished fourth, edging three-time Summer Paralympian Aaron Pike by 66 seconds. This year, Correll has doubled his marathon log and placed ninth in both London and Chicago.
Correll trailed Pike in London and two-time Paralympic medalist Daniel Romanchuk in both. Meanwhile, Swiss sensation Marcel Hug won both races.
None of those stars, including Pike or Romanchuk, will see action in Santiago. But Correll figures he has tested himself enough against those standard-bearers in various marathons plus training sessions in Champaign, Illinois.
“I have a pretty good gauge on a consistent basis of where I’m at,” Correll said, “so new competition would be really nice.”
With the Parapan Ams being his first international competition for Team USA, Correll will get to test himself against plenty of new faces in a brand-new environment.
“I’ve heard that a majority of the competition down there will be Paralympians and people from individual countries’ national teams,” he said. “The crowd is very supportive, and the atmosphere is very intense, which is something that I’m looking forward to very much.”
But for all the hype he is eating up about new faces and places, Correll also takes comfort in joining two of his best backers in Chile.
This past April, through a joint initiative between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and the NCAA, the Drake Relays held the first 100-meter collegiate wheelchair national championships. The men’s field consisted of five Arizona Wildcats and three Illinois undergraduates in Correll, Philip Croft and Jason Robinson.
Correll burst to first place while Robinson claimed silver. The duo took the same slots in the 800-meter, although that race didn’t have a national championship on the line.
“(Croft and Robinson) most definitely supported me strategically by pushing me in training and giving me tips from time to time,” Correll said. “And they still continue to help me out.”
That continuation will come to light in mid-November, as Illinois’ three Drake delegates take to Santiago.
On top of the support from his teammates, Correll hopes upgraded training and equipment will spring him forward in Santiago. If he gets his way, the strides and statements he has made between his two New York City Marathon appearances will go down as a warmup act.
“I got a new racer chair that helps with my overall position, as I’ve been struggling with my sitting position for quite some time,” he said. “But yeah, it should help with overall speed, pacing, acceleration and aerodynamics, so hopefully all of that works out.”
That modest conclusion evokes the pattern Correll initiated when he sought sixth or seventh place in NYC last year. By placing fourth, he set a long-term tone for 2023.
Fast-forward 12 months, and he now has the chance to enhance that sequence and leave the global Para track community something to watch for ahead of 2024.
“For the Paralympic year, I think this is going to be a good place to gauge where I’m at,” he said of Santiago, where his most basic goal is to top another podium in the 100 and cement a standard.
“I can’t wait to race my teammates and competitors,” he added, “and I wish them the best of luck.”
Al Daniel is a freelance features writer and contributor to usparatf.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @WriterAlDaniel.