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Interval Session #22 - Meggan Freeland
December 6, 2007

Parma (MI) Western sr Meggan Freeland was 20th as a soph at Foot Locker Midwest last year, which made her the #8 returnee coming into the season.  But her track season did not finish as well as her freshman year did, and in the fall she struggled with the heat at the Portage Invite and then finished a somewhat disappointing third in her D2 state meet.  But sometimes in the weeks between a state meet and a post-season appearance, everything will come together. 

With some super workouts leading to Foot Locker Midwest, and the execution of a smart, steady race, Meggan did what probably few outside of her inner circle thought she could do – grabbed the 10th and final spot for the Foot Locker Finals.  It’s not that she wasn’t good enough to do it, it’s just that all the pieces had to fall into place and she had to realize her potential.  DyeStat News Editor SteveU catches up with a FL Finalist less than an hour from home.

1. You’ve had some ups and downs this season in meets leading up to and including the state meet. It just didn’t seem like things were going as smooth as last year. Can you describe what was happening?

I definitely didn’t have the great races that I wanted to have at the Portage Invitational and the State Finals. It was my goal since last year’s Foot Locker race to qualify for the Foot Locker Finals. That was my ultimate goal.

At the Portage race I went out too fast and the heat that day got to me. My training during this time seemed all right, but the week going into the state meet I felt tired. At the State meet I thought I would have more control over the race, and I took off at my pace as normal, but my legs felt like lead the last half of the race and the lead girl got away from me. During the regional, I felt awesome the whole time and finished in a time of 18:06. That was my best time going into Foot Locker.

Although I did not perform, as I wanted to at those other big meets during the regular high school season, I didn’t let that discourage me about Foot Locker. This was my goal and I didn’t let other disappointments bother me much because I still had my main goal to go after.

2. You had three weeks to train between state and Foot Locker. What were those weeks like and did you start developing a sense that you were in better shape for a chance at qualifying?

Although I thought my training during the cross country season was going well, I had some awesome workouts that I was very proud of going into the Foot Locker race. This definitely boosted my confidence. I just focused on that race and went into the race confidently.

3. Please describe how the race unfolded for you. Did you start fast and hang on? Or pick off people during the race?

At the start of the race, my plan was to start out on pace and to go through my first mile on pace. When I thought about how the start would go, I thought I would be a lot farther back then I was. When we advanced up the hill into the wind, I had a weird sensation that the race was in a freeze frame, because it seemed like everyone was running very slow and by the time I got the top of the hill I was already in the top 10.

Although it felt slow, I was on pace and went through the mile in 5:47, which is where I wanted to be and was only behind (winner) Claire (Durkin) by two seconds. I ran with the same pack of girls the entire way. We stayed like this until after the two-mile mark until of few of them made a move. I was surprised at how fast the race went by and how great I felt. After the two mile, our pack broke up and I ran with three or four girls who I passed back and forth with. Then I was at the last 1000, digging in for the finish, and I was running with one other girl who at the time who wasn’t giving up her position, either. I thought we were competing for 9th and 10th (I didn’t know Claire was so far ahead). Once I found this out, I found another gear and just took off down a hill and never stopped until I crossed the finish line and they gave me the tenth place card.

4. Did you know when you hit the finish that you were in the top 10? It must have been a rush of emotions. How great did that feel?

I was sure I was tenth when I crossed the finish line because my coach yelled my name from the other side of the chute, holding up ten fingers. I guess I wasn’t positive until that moment. I was so happy I didn’t know what to say. Then a representative of Foot Locker gave me one of those race blankets, and whisked me away into a room where everyone was excited and talking about San Diego. I was so ecstatic after my race I wanted to jump up and down, but I was also so exhausted I just wanted to sit down. I filled out a bunch of forms and it really didn’t hit me that I was going to San Diego until after I met all my teammates outside of that room who were hugging me, excited to see me and telling me how happy they were for me.

5. How did you first get started with running? What were your beginnings in the sport?

From kindergarten until sixth grade I played softball. I was a pitcher on my team. I didn’t really play any other sports besides softball. In gym class in elementary school, I would always beat the boys in my class and loved racing other kids on the playground, but I guess I never really knew that running was a sport.

My parents suggested that I might want to join the team in the sixth grade. It sounded like fun and so I did it. On the first day of practice, we had the option of running a 45-minute run without stopping and I really didn’t want to be in the run and walk group. One of my teammates, Beka Bentle, encouraged me to do it and talked to me the whole way. The only other girl who accomplished the same feat was another sixth grader who I was very jealous of. I had just met her on that run and was jealous because it was so easy for her. I look back on that day because Beka has been my teammate all through my running career and the girl I was so jealous of is Jessie Ykimoff, who has been my best friend since seventh grade, and also my teammate on the Panthers cross country team.

6. Please tell us about your coaches; who works with you at different times of the year?

My coach during the high school cross country season is Mike Wilcox and Martha Olsen is my assistant coach. Out of the high school season, Brian and Martha Olsen are my coaches.

7. What kind of support do you have for your running, besides your coaches? Are your mom and dad and family big fans and supporters?

I have a lot of support in my running. My coaches are very supportive and I credit them for my success and all that they have taught me. They really care about me more than just as an athlete, and I really appreciate that. My mom and dad are great; they have supported me in everything that I have wanted to do since I was little, and I must say that I have put more than enough on their plate and that have always supported me. My sister is also a runner and I really enjoy running with her and seeing her success. She is very supportive and encouraging. My other teammates and I are very close and they always cheer me on.

8. I’ve heard you have a great interest in horses. Can you tell us about that, what kind of riding you do, etc., and your career interests along those lines?

I have had horses since I was four years old. I show mainly Western and some English, but my favorite is barrel racing and other gymkhana/speed events. I fell in love with them and other farm animals, as well, at a young age. I started out with a pony, and cat and dog, and now I must say I have quite a few. I show in 4-H at the Jackson County fair. I have horses, goats, steers, rabbits, cats, and dogs.

I love taking care of them and raising them. They fascinate me because they are so loving and kind. I want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. One day I want to be a D.V.M. and either be a practicing large/farm animal vet, but I may specialize in a certain species.

Photo by Vic Sailer

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