“Run like the shoes on your feet are stolen!” These are the sagacious words that I would have for a cross-country athlete, which may explain why I don’t coach long distance running. Highly-decorated U.S. athlete Meb Keflezighi expounds on the same idea more eloquently in his book, “Run To Win.”
I asked Mammoth High School Junior Jody Meads about her philosophy for competitive distance running. “The thing that pops in my mind is ‘Never give up.’ During a race, I get so physically exhausted, I want to quit. I don’t allow myself. When the race is finished, I realize that I didn’t quit, and I am a much stronger person for what I did!”
Meads does more than just finish races. This superstar “Athlete of the Week” pummels them. Meads won the Desert Mountain League title recently. That commendable feat carried her all the way to CIF State Championships last week in Fresno, where she finished second on the five-kilometer course, a mere 18 seconds behind. Her time: 18 minutes, 37 seconds.
Meads personal record running the mile occurred last year with a time of 5 minutes, 16 seconds. Jody took 13th place her ninth grade year at CIF, 4th place last year as a sophomore, and 2nd place last week to close out the season. As she says, “I am clearly faster and stronger every year. I can run quicker and harder. My times have been getting much, much faster.”
I asked MHS Cross Country Head Coach Scott Luke about Meads. “Jody has been really fun to watch the last three years in her progression as a runner. Her freshman year when she started as frosh-soph, not even on the varsity squad, she was walking parts of a race. One hundred days later, she qualified for State Championships as a freshman. Her sophomore year she won 8 of the 11 races that she entered. This year, racing and travel caught up with her. She was a little fatigued at the end of the season. We didn’t calculate mileage traveled this season, but last year, she traveled about 3,200 miles in a five-week, post-regular season period to compete. She finished 4th at Champs last year, but ended 2nd this time. That’s pretty good. This year, we were a bit more strategic. Improvement.” Luke is really impressed with how she closed out her season, and he has no doubt that Jody will be ready to be the first to cross the finish line, a few times over, on the MHS Track Team. Along with cross-country running, Jody has competed in two seasons of track. This upcoming spring season will be her third.
As for scholastics, Jody’s favorite school subject is English. “I find writing fun, mostly creative writing.” I asked Jody why the love of writing? “Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction writing, I enjoy giving descriptions and giving people visualizations. I like expressing my thoughts to others.” Jody is also very interested in photography. Her immediate goal for academics is to earn straight A’s. She has her eyes set upon obtaining a student-athlete scholarship to attend Brigham Young University after high school. A career path as a journalist seems like a probability for this star.
We are unfortunately losing Jody next year, as her family will relocate to Utah. I asked Jody about the upcoming move. “It’s gonna be rough. What got me running were the trails and trees here (in Mammoth). Being here has really helped me become the runner that I am.” Mammoth Lakes is well-known as a destination for high elevation, elite athlete training. Meads is a member of that community, and she will be dearly missed. She does recognize though that when one door closes, another one opens. She accepts the move with unfaltering focus.
Along with Scott Luke, Deena Kastor has assisted Jody along her journey. “She [Deena] has taken me under her wing. Deena and her husband [Andrew] have allowed me to train with them, giving me support. Very inspiring people.” Her father Jeff Meads is also a source of inspiration. “He has always been there with me for practices. It’s on and off with a small team. He is always there to be with me when I run by myself. He’s helped me learn how to motivate myself. He helped me get to where I am today.”
“Clearly, you have the desire to do your best in everything,” I asked Jody, “Why do you think that is?” Her response, with a huge grin across her face, “I’m very competitive. That’s how I got second place last week. Luke warned me that the girl in third place was catching up, so, I turned it on.” The shoes on her feet are not stolen, but the records she’s out to take very likely may be.