March 26, 2013

West is best for Meinders

Chris Whitfield

— Susan Meinders had wanted to be a competitive runner since she was a little girl, but it wasn’t until her freshman year at Dalton High School that she had the opportunity to be part of a track and field program.

By her sophomore year, she was getting noticed for her talents as a sprinter and hurdler. As a junior, she made her mark with a championship in the 300 hurdles at the 2012 Class 3A state meet. With her senior season under way and a goal of winning another state title this year in Class 4A, Meinders is already running again.

And next year she’ll run a long, long distance away.

Meinders secured her college future Monday afternoon at Dalton High School, signing a combination athletic and academic scholarship with the University of Northern Colorado.

“I have always known I wanted to go out west,” Meinders said. “I have some family who live there and I have visited it and I just loved it. I wanted to get away from home, and I know that sounds really bad, but I really wanted to start a new journey for my life.”

The Division I program is located in Greeley, Colo., and a member of the Big Sky Conference. The Bears run a mostly indoor track schedule, with only one home outdoor meet in the spring.

“I got in touch with some schools out there, and Northern Colorado got back to me, and that is how I got in,” said Meinders, who was also a volleyball standout for Dalton as an outside hitter, making The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Volleyball Team each of the past two seasons.

Meinders didn’t start running with a team until her freshman year because Christian Heritage School — which she attended through middle school — didn’t have a program. She has advanced quickly once given the opportunity.

“It has been a progression for Susan, taking steps each year,” said Dalton hurdles coach Henry Ouzts, an assistant to Lady Catamounts head coach Pam Brackett. “Her freshman year, she wasn’t really on the radar. During her sophomore year, she really started turning it on. Last year was a big payoff, and it came after a lot of hard work.”

Although she was the 300 hurdles champion at last year’s Region 7-4A and Class 4A West sectional meets, Meinders entered the Class 3A state meet in Albany this past May with few expectations. But in the finals, with the two favorites on either side of her, Meinders got out of the blocks quickly and never trailed.

Despite hitting the next-to-last hurdle and nearly stumbling, Meinders was still able to hold off the field for the title, clocking in at 44.21 seconds. That was a shade slower than the 44.17 she had run for a personal best in the preliminaries the day before, but time is generally of little concern to Meinders.

“She is a tremendous competitor, and one of the best things about Susan is she runs against people and not against the clock,” Ouzts said. “She puts people over her shoulder and keeps them there. Now she feels like she has some unfinished business and wants to prove herself in a higher classification.”

Meinders has been working more on the 400 hurdles, her likely event at Northern Colorado.

But college will be a challenge, and not just because of the increase in talent.

“It is going to be a lot different with a different climate and cooler temperatures,” she said. “The biggest adjustment is going to be the altitude.”