Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field

Canadian middle-distance runner Marco Arop leaves Mississippi State to turn pro

Edmonton runner and 2019 Pan Am gold medallist Marco Arop is foregoing his NCAA eligibility at Mississippi State University to concentrate on preparing for his Olympic debut next summer in Tokyo.

Rising star, 21, won Pan Am gold, placed 7th at worlds in breakthrough season

Canadian middle-distance runner Marco Arop is foregoing his NCAA eligibility at Mississippi State to turn professional after making his debut in a world championship final in October. (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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.

"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."

The 21-year-old Arop placed seventh at worlds in October, stopping the clock in one minute 45.78 seconds at Doha, Qatar. Two months earlier, he ran a personal-best 1:44.25 in Peru to set a Pan Am record and meet the 1:45.20 Olympic qualifying standard.

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:

Marco Arop set a Pan American Games record in the men's 800 metres race, finishing with a personal-best time of one minute 44.48 seconds. 1:08
Arop made headlines in 2018 at the national championships in Ottawa, where he led wire-to-wire in a stunning victory in his senior debut over Canadian-record holder Brandon McBride, who won two NCAA titles during his time at Mississippi State.

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:

American Donavan Brazier wins the 800m at track and field worlds, Canada's Marco Arop finishes 7th. 4:40

"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.

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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