Meisberger joins elite sprinters, hurdlers at University of Arizona

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Social media can be a good thing. For Shannon Meisberger, social media got her to where she wants to compete.

That's how Meisberger, a graduate of Lenox High School, ended up at the University of Arizona.

"A couple of my elite hurdlers, Georgeanne Moline and Sage Watson, Shannon followed both of them on social media. She had been following them and reached out to them," Arizona head coach Fred Harvey said, "and contacted me to see if it was even a possibility that I would be interested in having her come out to Arizona. Quite frankly, it was really more on her part, and tracking to see if I was worthy in coaching her."

Meisberger, who previously signed a National Letter of Intent to run at Georgetown University, is now a member of the Arizona women's track and field team. She has run indoors for the Wildcats, and is now running outdoors.

"Even at Georgetown, I would watch Georgeanne and Sage's Instagrams at lunch, and I was like, this is what I want to be doing," Meisberger said, in a phone interview with The Eagle from Tucson. "I want to be hurdling, and I want to be doing exercises that focus purely on hurdling. When I was thinking about transferring, Arizona was my top choice.

"I could go to other schools too, but Arizona is where I want to be."

Meisberger signed her LOI to attend Georgetown back in April of 2017, and said at the time it was a culmination of her hopes and dreams.

"I've always wanted to be a Division I athlete," Meisberger said after the signing ceremony in Lenox. "When I was in eighth grade, I told my parents, 'Mom, Dad, I'm going to be a hurdler in college. I'm going to run track in college. This is my thing.'"

Her freshman year at Georgetown was a pretty good one. Among her highlights were a second-place finish in the 400 hurdles at last May's Big East Conference outdoor meet. She also ran the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay, and her Hoyas team finished fourth. Indoors, she won the 400 hurdles at the George Mason Spring Invitational a year ago.

Meisberger had entered college with a well-decorated resume that included inning the New England championship in the 300-meter hurdles in June, 2017. She was the top seed and beat Danielle Brinckman of Glastonbury, Conn., 43.41 seconds to 43.44. Brinckman, by the way, plays soccer at Division I Seton Hall.

Meisberger has walked on, and in the words of her coach, "and she's earning a scholarship.

"The way that I look at it, there are certain times we have to have in order to be able to give aid," the coach said. "That being said, she is more than a recruitable athlete. We gave her an opportunity to come out, to train and literally to have me coach her and recruit her all at the same time."

Harvey anticipates that getting scholarship aid will eventually come to Meisberger.

The former Lenox standout said that coming to Tucson has been something she has really appreciated.

"It's just so different from any other experience I've ever had in track," Meisberger said. "I love it. I like that there's such a focus on not only performing, but being a team and recovering after practice. We focus more on us as people and athletes, rather than just running."

Meisberger ran her first outdoor hurdles event of the season in the Jim Click Shootout April 4-6. The meet was at home in Tucson. Meisberger was third in the 400 hurdles, in a time of 58.80 seconds. Rachel Schrow of Minnesota won the race in 58.07, while Meisberger's U of A teammate Karolina Fahlitzch was second in 58.60.

Meisberger, Fahlitzch, Tatum Waggoner and Neysia Howard make up Arizona's "A" team in the 4x400 relay, and they finished second at the Click Shootout to Pac-12 Conference rival Southern California. The USC foursome ran the relay in 3:36.93, while Arizona was right on their heels in 3:37.06.

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Earlier in the spring, Meisberger's relay team won the Willie Williams Classic title at Tucson in 3:39.14. Brigham Young was second at 3:42.22.

Meisberger's indoor resume this year consisted of running the 400 or the 600 meters. She won the 400 at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational at the University of Iowa, and won the 600 at the New Mexico Classic.

"Back home, I'd go cross-country skiing to track, which is like running a cross-country race and going 'All right, now sprint,'" Meisberger said. "I am training for the same thing the entire year, so it was a smoother transition from running 400 indoor to running 400 outdoors to running 400 hurdles."

Harvey has been the director of cross-country and track & field at Arizona since the 2003-04 season. He spent the previous 15 seasons there as an assistant coach. He has produced 78 All-Americans and nine NCAA Division I track & field champions.

As an athlete, his 5.81 time in the 50 meters was the fifth fastest time in the world in that event back in 1975.

But in all of those years, Meisberger is the first New England athlete he has ever ended up bringing on board.

"I've had kids from Virginia, Georgia. I haven't had many Northeastern athletes," Harvey said. "I had one hurdler out of New Jersey a number of years ago."

In fact, Meisberger is just one of two Arizona team members from east of the Mississippi River. There are 10 states, four Canadian provinces and three other foreign countries represented on the Wildcats' roster.

A typical Shannon Meisberger day is pretty filled up.

"[Thursday] is my most loaded day," she said. "I will wake up at 5:20 a.m., to get ready for my 6 a.m. lift. I'll do my 6 a.m. lift and finish around 7:20, eat breakfast, do a little last-minute studying before I go to my first class. I have classes from 9:30 until 3. After that, we have practice, and I think we're doing hurdles work."

Competing in track in Washington, D.C. is different than competing in Arizona. Part of that is due to Arizona competing at a different level, but also because even on a "chilly" day, the temperatures could be in the 70's. A chilly day in the Nation's Capital is exactly that, chilly.

"Regardless of whether I'm a senior or a freshman, I still always have to feel like I'm going to be learning things," she said. "I'm still in the process of figuring things out running and everything. I started to really feel comfortable with the team about halfway into the first semester."

That learning at Arizona has, according to Meisberger, changed how she runs and for the better.

"I've most improved on my view toward racing, and I've also improved on my running form," she said. "I used to be very fluid. Now I'm more technical, and I have a better understanding of races."

Can the Arizona Wildcats win a Pac-12 title this spring? Meisberger said she's cautiously optimistic.

"I know that my teammates are strong athletically. I know, at least, I'm going to attempt to score in the Pac-12 meet, and I know my friends are," she said. "I hope it works out. Hopefully we can."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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