Tag Archives: athletes of distinction

Right on Track: Sam McGlone ’97

Sam has always loved a good challenge—the secret is to keep one step ahead. The retired triathlete shares her experiences at Ridley, what’s keeping her running these days, and the conversation she wishes more young athletes would have.

These days, Sam McGlone is taking life in stride, albeit at a quick pace. The Olympic triathlete may have retired from competition, but as an emergency physician with two little ones at home, Sam has more than enough to keep her running—and, in case you were wondering, she’s still as active as ever.

The San Diego-based doctor just started working at Sharp Memorial hospital, following residency at the University of California. Her husband, Brent, is an emergency physician as well, and the two have a five-year-old son, Cole, and a daughter, Alex, who’s three. “It’s a little hectic,” she says cheerfully, but she’s clearly enjoying every minute. “The kids are high-energy, funny, active—they’re everything you’d imagine.” They come by it honestly. Their parents met through triathlon; Brent was an elite athlete and swim coach, who, like Sam, transitioned to medicine later on.

Dr. Sam McGlone with PPE on

“It wears on you,” she admits. “Everyone’s got this fatigue because it’s been going on so long—but as a health care worker I’ve seen the numbers rise. People are coming in sicker and you know a lot of it is preventable.”

As we speak, it doesn’t take long for the elephant in the room to be addressed: Sam is working as a doctor in the midst of a global pandemic, and she is at turns empathetic and frustrated. “It wears on you,” she admits. “Everyone’s got this fatigue because it’s been going on so long—but as a health care worker I’ve seen the numbers rise. People are coming in sicker and you know a lot of it is preventable.” She pauses. “But I’m also sensitive to the fact that people are over this and just want to see their families. They’re not ready to make those sacrifices indefinitely.”

The upshot of California living, however, is that their family can be outdoors year-round, whether that means being active, taking a break, or socializing safely outside. The seasonal perks of San Diego are, admittedly, quite different from St. Catharines, where Sam and her sister, Karen ’95 grew up, right near Ridley, where they attended Upper School. “My parents always felt education was a priority, so when it came to high school, we started looking at different options,” she remembers. “Ridley immediately stood out because of the breadth of opportunity there. To have that in your own backyard and be able to go as a day student was amazing. We loved our time there.”

From dabbling in music and theatre, to exploring new sports and writing for the school newspaper, Sam enjoyed the diversity she found on campus. She rode horses, was a harrier, joined the swim team, was on the First Girls hockey team for a time, and was the 1993 Midget Girls Cross Country Run winner, earning a Tiger Tie for her athletic achievements. “When your kids are young, you think about putting them into one sport or another, but I’d encourage them to try a variety,” she offers, thinking of her own sport-loving little ones. “In your late teens and twenties, you’ll need to focus in order to get to a high level. But there’s a lot of time before that needs to happen, and you’re asking for burnout if you specialize too early.” 

“My parents always felt education was a high priority and when we started looking at options for high school, Ridley stood out because of the sheer breadth of opportunity there. To have that right in our own back yard was amazing.”

It was Ridley’s cross-country coach, Maggie Swan who first encouraged the 14-year-old to look into triathlon. “She said it was a great way to stay in shape during summers for the track and cross-country seasons,” Sam recalls. “So, I borrowed a wet suit and a bike and did the Grimsby Triathlon. I don’t think I did terribly well that first one, but it was challenging and a lot of fun. I decided, ‘I want to get better at this.’”

In the summers that followed, Sam participated in races across Ontario, but it was her training with a team in Australia that really helped up her game. “Australia has strong teams and training programmes,” she explains, having gone for a gap year after high school,“and I took a big jump up in my level. When I came back to Canada, I made the Junior National Team, and that launched me to international competitions.” 

Sam McGlone running mid race

From there, she was, quite literally, off and running. Having always intended to go to medical school, Sam moved to Quebec to study kinesiology at McGill University and trained with a club while she completed her degree. When she was presented with the opportunity to make Team Canada, Sam decided to postpone med school to see where her talents could take her. She knew there was only so long she’d be able to compete in a tough endurance sport like hers, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“In your late teens and twenties, you’ll need to focus in order to get to a high level. But there’s a lot of time before that needs to happen, and you’re asking for burnout if you specialize too early.” 

After graduating from McGill in 2002, she moved to the Canadian Training Centre in Victoria, B.C. It was a smart gamble which led to a successful 10-year career as a professional triathlete. Sam raced in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup Series, won the Canadian National Triathlon championship in 2004 and 2005, and represented Canada at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

“It was the highlight of my life,” she remembers of her time in Athens, that first call to her mom back home drowned out by the cheers in the stadium. “In terms of the race itself, it was like any other: the format’s the same, the officials, the competitors—and in some ways, that was reassuring. But everything surrounding the Games was so much bigger than anything I’d ever seen. Triathlon is one of the smaller sports, so we don’t get a lot of mainstream publicity. We’re not used to the crowds. Walking into the stadium for the opening ceremonies where there were 80,000 people and media and cameras flashing was just on a different scale.”

Shortly thereafter, Sam transitioned to competing in Ironman races and won gold at the 2006 World Championships—she’s the only Canadian to ever win. “Canadians have a long line of pretty incredible triathletes,” she says proudly. “Because of the size and climate of our country, we produce some impressive results. There have been some amazing women who have come before and after me.” Sam would go on to finish second at the 2007 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and took home the Ironman title in Arizona in 2009.

Sam McGlone running mid race

“Canadians have a long line of pretty incredible triathletes. Because of the size and climate of our country, we produce some impressive results. There have been some amazing women who have come before and after me.”

And, along the way, she wrote, contributing a monthly column to Triathlete magazine where she tackled questions on training, racing and lifestyle. For Sam, it was a great way to communicate with the pre-Twitter triathlon population, in a time before social media was what it is today. Days were tough but satisfying for the young athlete, on a perpetual loop of eat-train-sleep-recover. A solid race performance was her reward.

“At the time, you’re not striving for balance,” she recalls, though that’s admittedly changed over the years. “You need to have that singular focus. You might train 30 to 40 hours a week, but then there’s another 20 that’s dedicated to recovery so you can do your next session—stretching and sleeping and nutrition and massage and physical therapy and lifting weights. It’s the difference between those who do triathlon recreationally and those in the professional ranks; all those peripheral things that give you that extra edge.”

Despite the challenging work, spending her twenties racing and in training camps was an opportunity to travel and make friends with athletes from around the world. “I was 22 when I started full time, 24 when I competed at the Olympics,” she explains. “And you may miss out on some social aspects of day-to-day life, but I never regretted it. I went to Australia and Thailand and Japan and all over Europe—and you can’t do this forever. You have to retire at some point.”

“It’s hard to think there will be an end to a sports career, but of course, there will be an end. Most of us retire in our thirties, which is still young. So, we have these athletes who have dedicated their lives to this one thing, becoming respected experts in their field. Suddenly they’re starting from scratch somewhere else.”

The topic of retirement warrants more serious attention, Sam posits, and is part of ongoing conversations around mental health. For many athletes, the focus is on performance, their identity bound up in their sport, their confidence contingent upon their success. When the time comes to transition out, many feel aimless.

“It’s hard to think there will be an end to a sports career,” she says simply. “But of course, there will be an end. Most of us retire in our thirties, which is still young. So, we have these athletes who have dedicated their lives to this one thing, becoming respected experts in their field. Suddenly they’re starting from scratch somewhere else. It’s very emotional.”

Dr. Sam McGlone in scrubs with sunglasses

“Some people need more closure and time to transition, but I chose a quick turnaround so there wasn’t a lot of time to soul search and lament the loss. There was this immediate new identity that was just as exciting and full of potential.”

Sam completed her final race, the 2012 Antwerp 70.3, just ten days before becoming a first-year med student at the University of Arizona. “I deliberately chose something all-encompassing to throw myself into,” she shares. She’d always known she’d go to med school and the time it would take to complete that, in large measure, dictated when she left competition. “Some people need more closure and time to transition, but I chose a quick turnaround so there wasn’t a lot of time to soul search and lament the loss. There was this immediate new identity that was just as exciting and full of potential.”

“I think emergency medicine tracks a lot of athletes, triathletes, especially. We’re the jack of all trades: we’re never going to be the best in swimming, or biking, or running—but we’re good at doing all three. In emergency medicine, we’re not the best in any one specialty, but we know enough about everyone’s specialty to identify and treat emergencies. In some ways, it’s very comparable to the triathlon mindset.”

In many ways, med school was as time consuming and competitive as triathlon ever was, and with a well-laid out path ahead of her, she was able to improve and track her gains in a similar fashion. The same grit, mental focus, and determination Sam used for competition, was now channeled into a new vocation. 

Dr. Sam McGlone holding a sign with three fellow graduates standing in front of a helicopter. Sign says "Congratulations Class of 2020" with a logo from the UC San Diego Health System.

“I think emergency medicine tracks a lot of athletes,” she muses. “Triathletes, especially. We’re the jack of all trades: we’re never going to be the best in swimming, or biking, or running—but we’re good at doing all three. In emergency medicine, we’re not the best in any one specialty, but we know enough about everyone’s specialty to identify and treat emergencies. In some ways, it’s very comparable to the triathlon mindset.”

As for the physical adjustment, the decreased physical activity was a bit of a shock. She eased herself out of the heavy, training-focused weeks and into a more sustainable lifestyle, enjoying the opportunity to explore new sports and return to others. These days, Sam goes on ski trips in the winter, paddle boards and mountain bikes and runs along the beach. Regardless of the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, Sam and Brent make certain the other has that time to unwind and decompress.

What’s clear from this Ridleian and Athlete of Distinction is her dedication to life-long personal development. Sam has always set the course, tracked a pace set by her own watch, and persevered on the uphill. These days, the path is more about balance, as she raises a young family and tends to those within her care—but that drive, that gold-standard mindset, hasn’t changed one bit.


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Spring 2021 issue.

HomeComing 2015

20923040203_6b367cd694_z

This past weekend, Ridley graduates from far and wide returned to campus for HomeComing; where they had the chance to see friends, reminisce about old times, and make new memories. 

FRIDAY

This year in particular, we celebrated classes whose years ended in 0’s and 5’s, and honoured the class of 1965 as 2015’s Golden Tigers.

Friday’s events began with the Golden Tigers luncheon with Headmaster, Ed Kidd and his wife, Hanna, followed by a tour of the new buildings on campus. Later in the evening, OR’s, Governor’s, faculty and friends gathered in school house to watch the unveiling of the 125 Donor Wall, which proudly displays the names of those who made major donations to the school during the 125th year. The Governors’ Dinner rounded out the day’s events with OR’s from 1945 all the way up to 2010 dined in the Great Hall.

21539122505_d933207e76_z 21513332196_30da23afd5_z

SATURDAY

Saturday began with Alumni Rowing, where twelve OR’s took to Royal Canadian Henley Regatta to row with the current Ridley Crew. The rain did make a brief appearance, but the rowers had smiles on their faces nonetheless.

Back on campus, OR’s began to fill up the tent, tour their old houses, visit with their old teachers and enjoy their time back on the Ridley grounds. The bleachers in the Griffith Gym were filled to capacity, as the inaugural “Athletes of Distinction” presentation began. This was an opportunity for us to celebrate some of Ridley’s greatest athletes, such as Fiona Milne ‘90 (Canadian, Olympic rower) and Alexander Hayes 30’(Grey Cup Champion). Luckily, the sun came out just in time for the OR’s to enjoy some afternoon sports. 

20927015423_5ed4b4465f_z 21521921166_e94da64f5a_z

IMG_4989

SUNDAY

On the final day of HomeComing, OR’s sat down in the Memorial Chapel for the “Founder’s Day” service, followed by Prayers of Remembrance and a dedication in the memory of John Stevens, ’42. Our last item of the Weekend was an alumni soccer game.

20976520374_31392581c1_z 21415631428_30366447f4_z

Thank you to all who attended and participated in another successful HomeComing weekend.

For all the photos from HomeComing weekend, check out Ridley’s official Flickr page!

“There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming home again” ­– Margaret Elizabeth Sangster