For Meger, it’s been a long, but rewarding road to state cross country meet

New Prague High School senior Katelyn Meger placed sixth at the Section 2AA meet Thursday, Oct. 27, held at the Crown College campus in St. Bonifacius.

Meger qualifies to compete in the Minnesota State High School League State Cross Country Meet Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The achievement marks the first time in the 26-year history of New Prague girls cross country that an athlete has qualified for the state meet.

Meger’s running career began in 2000 when she joined the New Prague Trojan squad as a seventh grader. That was the year Julie Berg, a New Prague resident who had recently competed in the Marathon Olympic Trials and was an accomplished runner at Red Wing High School and the University of Minnesota, took over as coach of the program.

Meger showed Coach Berg her potential in their first race, placing first of 99 in the Montgomery Redbird Middle School race. By 2001, Meger and classmate Ellie Stasney were among New Prague’s top varsity runners.

Katelyn is the daughter of Bruce and Carol Meger. Prior to her sophomore year her focus was on basketball. In fact, her off days during the cross country season were often filled with traveling basketball games. As her interest in running grew, Katelyn joined ninth grade track to improve her performance. However, that spring her running pace slowed markedly. Doctors discovered that spring she had an overactive thyroid.

Surgery followed and Meger spent her sophomore cross country season on the sidelines, cheering on her teammates. While her running career appeared to be on hold, Meger felt like she had some unfinished business. She began training the summer before her junior year and placed 23rd in the 2004 Section cross country meet.

A breakthough occurred during her 2005 spring track season. Meger topped Summer Schmitz’s 3,200-meter school record. With renewed confidence, she prepared for this year’s cross country season.

As New Prague has grown and become more metropolitan, so has the population of runner’s in the community. Meger is co-captain of a team four times larger than when she first joined. In fact, for the first meet the team could not fit into the bus assigned to it and a second bus had to be summoned.

Meger performed well during her season and conference meets, closing in on 15 minutes for her 4,000 meter race, a near 6-minute mile. The section course was challenging, with rolling hills and changing terrain. Meger executed the strategy laid out by Coach Berg: to flow through the first, hilly two miles, passing competitors on the flat portions and over the last 800 meters.

Meger plans to enjoy her state meet experience, with a pasta feed the night before at the St. Olaf field house. Her family, teammates and friends hope to cheer her on to All-State honors at the 11 a.m. girls Class AA race.

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