The Road To Nationals: Megan Meyer
Nov. 20, 2009
With a team comprised mainly of freshmen as is the case with the 2009 UA women’s cross country team, it’s hard to say anyone is really a surprise. With so much youth, you can never really be sure of what you are going to get. However, if you needed to find one athlete to fit the mold of that “biggest surprise” then you need look no further than Megan Meyer.
The freshman out of Mission Viejo, Calif. was sort of a question mark when she arrived at Arizona. It’s not to say that Meyer was a slouch in high school – in fact, it was quite the opposite – but a rough senior season left not only coaches but herself wondering what to expect at the next level.
During her senior campaign at Tesoro High School, Meyer developed a bout of patellar tendonitis. This was followed by issues with shin splints and as she explained it, “injury after injury” ensued. Any time she would try to get back into the swing of things, she found that she would push herself too hard and overdo it and another injury would crop up.
This led to a very up and down senior season that was a far cry from what some collegiate coaches had recruited her for in prior years. It was this time where Meyer had to consider whether continuing to run would be part of her future or not.
“I knew it was always my desire (to run) but there were just times where I wondered if I would be back to the person that the coaches recruited me to be,” she said. “It was such a dark time for me.”
The runner that the coaches recruited was the Megan Meyer that finished 21st at the 2007 National Cross Country race held in San Diego, Calif., the runner who earned a fair share of All-League and All-County honors before her senior season, the Footlocker West Regional runner, and the runner that holds one of Orange County’s fastest 3200-meter marks in track and field. After her senior season, however, it was hard to tell which runner Arizona was going to get.
“The thing that was heavy on my heart was that I needed to trust in whatever was in store for me,” Meyer said. “I needed to believe that it was going to be okay.”
Upon arriving at the UA, things still continued to look grim for Meyer as the new intensity she had to face in the program’s workouts was something she had never experienced in high school and something that was tough to acclimate herself to after her tough senior season.
However, she credits Arizona assistant cross country coach Erin Dawson for putting together a workout regimen for her that helped her get back into form. Meyer said Dawson was always very encouraging of her progress and that when she was back to her old form, she felt great.
Despite this, it may have been hard to imagine the impact Meyer would eventually have on the team. Only competing in the UA’s first two meets of the season – the George Kyte Invite in Flagstaff and the Dave Murray Invite in Tucson – Meyer posted respectable results but nothing that was too eye-popping.
So when Dawson called Meyer and teammate and fellow freshman Melanie McGrath into her office the Tuesday afternoon before last weekend’s NCAA West Regionals, the result of that conversation could be seen as somewhat of a surprise.
Dawson asked McGrath if it would be alright if Meyer traveled to Eugene, giving her a chance to experience a “big meet” before the season was over. McGrath agreed and Meyer was on the plane to the regional meet just a couple days later.
“I remember Melanie texted me when I got there and she told me, ‘Megan, you’re there for a reason.’” Meyer said. “That really meant a lot to hear that from her.”
As far as the race was concerned, it would be unlike any that Meyer had ever experienced. Upon hearing that Arizona’s number two runner, Lauren Smith, was going to be unable to run, Meyer said everything just hit her at once.
“It was like a new type of nervous,” she said. “I was determined, excited and really fired up.”
Losing as high caliber an athlete as Smith could have crippled some teams, UA Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Fred Harvey would say after the race, but he let them know that somebody somewhere was going to have to step up. And so Meyer did.
“You spend the first part of the race just fighting for position, but after that, whenever there was a gap I just surged and tried to go for it,” she said. “I was just thinking of the team and the fight they were going through and I pushed myself.”
The result? A 60th-place overall finish to finish in the fifth and final scoring spot for Arizona and may very well have been the difference in the team qualifying for Nationals or not.
'That was just incredible,' junior Maggie Callahan said of her teammate after the race. 'She was kind of hurt early in the season and had never traveled with us and we didn't really know what she could do.'
'She came here in a big race - a money race - and finished in that fifth position for us. That was huge.'
Prior to the race, Dawson gave every girl on the team a necklace with a ring engraved with a word. The word engraved on Meyer’s was “passion”, the same word shared on Smith’s necklace. Meyer said that she thought about Smith and the necklace they shared throughout the race and wanted to go out and finish strong for her teammate that couldn’t run on such an important day.
And “passion” is probably the word that best describes Meyer’s life in general, a word that she says is very important to everything she does, from running to school to her community involvement.
Always one to try and give back, Meyer has always been very active in her community – be it in California or here in Arizona – as far as being an active leader in making changes for the best.
In high school, she was an Impact Mentor and helped new freshmen by meeting with them and creating a bond for them in order to help make the transition to high school easier. She was a the founder of the Pink Ribbon Club to raise awareness for breast cancer at her school and also spent time in Mexico distributing blankets, food and clothing to persons in need.
She has also been selected as one of fifty students to be a part of the International Student Volunteers where she will travel to Australia or New Zealand and to participate in the program and offer her services to whatever causes are offered to her.
At Arizona, she has also picked up an active role working with the campus’s chapter of FeelGood – non-profit organization working to end world hunger. The UA chapter was founded by cross country teammate Hanna Henson last year and has grown immensely since then and Meyer has played a large role in being active in that.
“Megan’s always coming to me with ideas and that’s always encouraging,” Henson said. “She is just a very giving person, even to the point where if she can’t make it to team dinners she always wants to make something.”
Through FeelGood, Meyer helped kick start Operation Christmas Child on campus. The program partner’s with Samaritan’s Purse to fill boxes with toys, hygiene products and clothes and ship the items to Africa to families in need.
Meyer was also the valedictorian and also honored the Torch of Excellence and Spirit of Titan Awards from her high school. An accomplished student, Meyer intends on majoring in Biosystems Engineering with a focus on water purification. After college she hopes to travel to other countries and use the knowledge from her degree to improve the quality of life elsewhere.
'She always wants to be so much better as a person,' said teammate and roommate Cami Jackson. 'She helps not just with running but with anything you need, you can just ask Megan.'
Whether it be from her accomplishments as an athlete or to her actions in the community, it seems quite obvious that Arizona has found quite the impressive individual in Megan Meyer and will hope that her passion for all things will continue to advance her as an individual during her tenure as a UA student-athlete.