River Hill’s Faith Meininger lined up to run the two-mile a little over two weeks ago at the Howard County indoor track and field championships in a different position than normal.
Meininger, who is one of the best mid-distance/distance runners in the state, was in the first heat because she didn’t have a fast enough seed time to run in the final heat.
She blew away the field in the first heat, though, and ran a fast enough time (11:49) to finish second overall in the 3,200-meter run, only behind Howard’s Amanda Eliker. The meet was the first time Meininger had competed at full strength since a preseason cross country scrimmage when she suffered a stress fracture in her right shin.
“It was so reassuring,” Meininger said about her performance at the county championship. “It was one of the best running feelings I’ve ever had. The runner’s high was real that day. I needed that result to go out and see how I could do. That was definitely an inspirational day.”
Meininger also competed in the 800-meter run, placing third behind Glenelg’s Kaila Spence and Howard’s Nimrit Ahuja. She crossed the finish line in 2:29.
“She’s very impressive,” said first-year River Hill coach Todd Ashley. “She’s an excellent runner, very intelligent and really coachable. She’s a nice kid. I love seeing her progress the way she has.”
She sustained the injury on Sept. 2 during a scrimmage meet. Despite thinking it was just soreness at first, Meininger later found out it was a stress fracture in her right shin after going to a doctor.
“We thought we caught it early, but it was a little too late,” she said.
The injury was “really disappointing,” Meininger said, because she was expecting to have another successful cross country season. As a sophomore, Meininger placed third at counties, first at the 2A South region meet and 10th at states. Her freshman campaign was just as impressive, as she finished second at counties and regionals and fifth at states.
She also impressed on the track, as well. Meininger was a quadruple winner at the outdoor track 2A South regional last season and also finished with two silvers and a bronze at states.
Meininger spent the six weeks after sustaining injury in a boot and with crutches. She then progressed by ditching the crutches and then by taking off the boot in the following weeks, but she wasn’t able to train except for the arm bike. After Meininger got out of the boot, she was cleared to swim and bike. She was first cleared to run in late October/early November.
Meininger, who still attended most of the cross country meets to cheer on her team, said Katherine Kitzinger, Chloe McGeehan and the rest of her teammates all helped her stay motivated through her recovery.
“They’ve been really helpful to me,” Meininger said. “The whole team kept telling me that there’s still so much more time. There are more seasons, and they have been there when I was having a hard time. A lot of the work I was doing alone, but sometimes they’d tag along for a swim or a bike.”
Meininger was cleared to race in December, but she didn’t run 100 percent in the two Howard County league meets before the county championships. She said it was “difficult” to return after not running at full strength for a few months, because she didn’t want to re-injure the shin.
“I had a fear in the back of my head about pushing it too hard early,” she said. “At the same time, getting back to running I didn’t feel too behind on the conditioning because I had time swimming and biking. But it did take a little time to catch up.”
Ashley said the main goal for Meininger was to be fully healthy for the outdoor season but she has been dedicated to get back in time for the indoor postseason.
“My biggest thing was I didn’t want to get her out on the track in an unsafe way," he said. “We didn’t want to jeopardize losing her any longer.”
While missing her junior cross country season was disappointing, Meininger realizes she has a lot of running left in her high school career. She doesn’t want to “overdo it” in the next few weeks at the regional and state meets, but she does admit she has an edge to prove herself on the track to make up for missing cross country season.
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“I can put that anger of not being able to run cross country into track season this year and cross country season next year,” she said.