Canadian middle-distance runner Marco Arop leaves Mississippi State to turn pro
Rising star, 21, won Pan Am gold, placed 7th at worlds in breakthrough season
Marco Arop is pushing school to the side to concentrate on preparing for his Olympic debut next summer in Tokyo.
The Canadian middle-distance runner announced Monday he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility at Mississippi State University to turn professional.
The rising junior is fresh off a breakout season in which Arop won a Pan Am gold medal in the men's 800 metres and made his debut in a world championship final.
"This wasn't an easy decision to make, but it was one I would have to make eventually," Arop, who was majoring in Business Information Systems, said in a video posted to his Twitter account.
For those who didn’t know, I’ve made some big decisions these past few months...<br>•<br>•<br>•<br>Thank you to <a href="https://twitter.com/HailStateTF?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@hailstatetf</a> for capturing this message and all the amazing work! <a href="https://t.co/LZGSbOzNOG">pic.twitter.com/LZGSbOzNOG</a>—@marco_arop
"Ever since I was introduced to Mississippi State, it's been my goal to be the best athlete I can be for this program. Although I won't be running in a Bulldog uniform anymore, I'll still be a Bulldog for life."
Not bad for the Sudan-born, Edmonton-raised runner who didn't transition to track and field until his junior year in high school.
WATCH | Marco Arop runs to Pan Am gold medal:
Last February, Arop ran 1:45.90 indoors to break the Canadian record and set a school mark. The three-time First Team All-American had hitched his college dreams to a basketball scholarship until the track coach at Blessed Oscar Romero High School convinced Arop to run track in Grade 12.
WATCH | Arop 7th in world 800-metre debut:
"I'm not at all shocked Marco has made it this far," Mississippi State track head coach Chris Woods said in a story posted on the school's website. "I knew from the very first time I visited with Marco and his family in Edmonton that he was going to be extremely special.
"He's just a super talented kid with the right mindset you have to have to be successful on this level and [at] the next level. I still don't believe he's scratched the surface of what he can do."
The six-foot-four Arop, a 2018 NCAA silver medallist who was also part of MSU's fastest 4x800 relay team in program history, told Scott Russell at worlds he needs to "get better at going three rounds [heats, semifinals, finals]" after fatigue caught up to the youngest participant in the final.