It All Starts With A List

By Ryan Broadhead

Every day Amanda Mergaert, a cross country runner for the University of Utah, looks at a list. This list includes inspirational quotes like "Today I will not complain" and "Remember my goals" and "Enjoy my time."

Underneath Mergaert's quotes lies the foundation of who she is. Before the school year starts, Mergaert formulates goals for both the upcoming school year and goals for her athletic season. The list is no simple daily to-do list, and instead acts as a motivator and a tool to keep her on track as she comes into her own.

Last year, Mergaert's sophomore season, she posted a new personal record and new school record of 4:16.57 in the 1,500-meter at the NCAA West Preliminary meet. She also became the first Utah athlete to qualify for the NCAA Championships since Alyssa Abbott in 2008. At the NCAA Championships in Indiana, Mergaert finished 45th out of 255 runners with a six-kilometer time of 20:56. Pretty good for most, but not to Mergaert.

"I'm not satisfied with just getting to the championships when I know I could have done better," Mergaert said. "I missed All-American by two seconds. That was rough. I'm one of those people who can't let that go until I race again."

Mergaert is an athlete driven by her internal desire to be the best. In high school, she showed up for her first track practice and immediately asked her coach, "So how do I get to be the best? Who do I have to beat to be number one?" That internal desire to be the best is something even her coach marvels at.

"That girl is driven," Utah head coach Kyle Keppler said. "There is never a motivational problem for her. She's definitely a type-A personality."

In the upcoming weeks, Mergaert will have her chance to get back into the competition. She is set to make her cross country season debut at the Stanford Invitational this weekend, teaming with Abbott for the first time in two years. A solid finish at Stanford is certainly a priority, but her goals are broader than that.

"I want to do more damage at nationals," Mergaert said. "Nobody wants to finish a season completely satisfied, because if you finish a season completely satisfied, why would you keep training?"

Nationals or no nationals, one thing is for sure: Amanda Mergaert , aided by her motivational list, will give it her all and represent Utah well in the Pac-12.

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