(05-Mar) -- Paul McMullen, the 1996 USA Olympic Team Trials 1500m champion who would run a lifetime best of 3:33.89 for that distance five years later, has died according to several people prominent in the track and field community in Michigan where McMullen, grew up, lived and attended college at Eastern Michigan University. The cause of death was said to be a skiing accident which occurred in Northern Michigan, but no other details were yet available. McMullen was 49.
"Michiganders embrace blue collar work ethic," tweeted Kevin Hanson, coach of the Michigan-based Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project. "Northern Michigan takes that mentality and community pride to a another level. Nationally recognized distance runners have emerged from this environment. We've lost three of them way too early: Jeff Drenth, Ryan Shay and now Paul McMullen. RIP."
McMullen grew up in Cadillac, Mich., was an eight-time NCAA Division I All-American and ten-time Mid-American Conference champion for the Eastern Michigan University Eagles. Upon his death he still held the school record for 1500m of 3:38.74 set in 1995.
McMullen's pro career extended from 1995 through 2004, and he raced frequently. In addition to his Olympic Trials victory in 1996, McMullen also won the USA 1500m title in 1995 and made it to the final of the World Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he finished tenth.
In 1997, McMullen had an accident while using a lawnmower and lost two toes. Remarkably, he ran even faster after he recovered. His best time in 1996 as an Olympian was 3:36.24, but in 2001 he ran 3:35.3 in Heusden and 3:33.89 in Monaco.
McMullen only finished tenth in his preliminary heat of the 2000 USA Olympic Team Trials, and some observers thought that his career might be over. But a year later he rallied at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., where in the 1500m final he came from sixth place at the top of the homestretch to third to make his second world team. He reached the final in Edmonton, and like in Gothenburg in 1995 he would again finished tenth.
In McMullen's final season, he competed in the USA Olympic Team Trials in Sacramento, Calif., and did not advance out of the semi-finals.
McMullen held an accounting degree, spent four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, and then held a series of professional jobs. According to his Facebook page, his most recent job was being a "Smart Infrastructure Account Executive" at Siemens. He and his wife, Nuria De Soto Queraltó, lived in Grand Haven, Mich., and had a daughter, Catalina, born in 2014. He also had two children with his former wife, Jill: Olivia and David.
"This is tragic," tweeted Ray Flynn of Flynn Sports Management who served as McMullen's agent. "Paul was one of the fiercest competitors ever on the track, larger than life and a wonderful person. My deepest condolences to his family."