This being her senior year, Meghan Janssen had a goal to make it as memorable as possible.
So far, so good.
In November, Janssen signed a national letter of intent to run track at the University of North Dakota. A few months later, she learned she was selected as Minnetonka’s Athena Award winner, given to the school’s top female student-athlete.
“So far, it’s been a good year,” Janssen said.
In fact, it’s been a good four years at Minnetonka. As a freshman, she was a last-minute addition to the Skippers’ 4x800-meter relay team at the Class 2A meet. She ran the lead leg, setting the pace for a championship performance. Janssen and the Skippers have now won three consecutive 4x800 state titles and are favored to win it again this year.
She talked with staff writer Jim Paulsen about her love for the middle-distance track events, which are considered the most demanding.
Q: The 800 is like a half-mile sprint. How did you start running that race?
A: It’s a funny story. My freshman year, I was running all short sprints, like the 100 and 200 and occasionally the 400. Then that fluke thing happened at the state meet and the next year, the coach decided to have me give the 800 a try and I’ve really enjoyed it.
Q: How do approach that race? You can’t sprint the whole way but you can’t lay back and wait like you can in a longer race.
A: I never really think about the pace. I mean, when we’re out there, you want to hit certain times at 200 meters and things like that, but I just try to feel solid for the first lap.
Q: How do you keep up the pace for that long?
A: It really is like a sprint for two laps. When I hit the second lap, I try to go faster. But what really happens to your body when you think you’re going faster is that you’re just maintaining speed. That’s how the body works.
Q: How do you remember that state championship-winning relay team you were on as a freshman?
A: I don’t think I’ve ever felt as many nerves as I did before that race. At the end, when we won, it was just disbelief. Even though some of the girls on that team have graduated, we’re all still super-close.
Q: Minnetonka has won the last two girls’ Class 2A team championships. Why?
A: It has a lot to do with the atmosphere in practice. This team is very determined. We have a coach that pushes us, but we are also teammates that push each other as well. Track is an individual sport, but to us, the team is such a big part of it. I couldn’t imagine running track without being part of a team.
Q: You’ll be shooting for four 4x800 championships in a row, but you’ve also got individual goals in the 400 and 800. Do you prefer individual races or relays?
A: That’s a hard question. I would pick relay because there’s something special about having to do your best for someone else. And this might sound weird, but running and holding that baton is one of the most exciting things there is.
Q: Ever drop it?
A: No, not yet. Thankfully. Knock on wood.
Q: As a senior, do you think about how fast the years have gone by?
A: People say it goes by fast, but it’s so true. It goes by super-fast. So this year, I just want to put everything out there and have no regrets. There’s still this season to go and make good memories.
Q: What is your track superstition?
A: Every year I buy one pair of socks and I run every race in that pair. I’ve done it since I was a freshman, in track and cross-country. I don’t think I could wear a different pair of socks now.