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Far from home, close to success

UW sophomore Megan Goethals is looking to follow a sixth-place finish in the 5000-meter race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last spring with a successful cross-country season. Photo by Lucas Anderson

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UW sophomore Megan Goethals.

Wherever Megan Goethals runs, success seems to follow.

Even though she has only been on the UW campus for just over a year, the sophomore cross-country runner has already begun to turn heads at the collegiate level.

In just her first season as a member of the UW track and field team (it’s common for cross-country runners to also run track in the spring), Goethals finished in sixth place in the 5000-meter race at the NCAA Championships, netting her First-Team All-American honors.

“Last track season, she ran probably three of the best 5K races that we have ever had here,” UW head cross-country coach Greg Metcalf said. “For a true freshman to go to the NCAAs, it was a big step in the right direction for Megan.”

Goethals is accustomed to accomplishing big things, though.

Hailing from Rochester, Mich., a city on the outskirts of Detroit, Goethals made the trek to Seattle as one of the most decorated recruits in the history of Husky athletics.

Besides winning five Michigan state track titles and countless state and national meets, she also holds the second-fastest two-mile time ever run by a high-school athlete in U.S. history.

Maybe her most impressive accomplishment, though, was being named the 2009 Gatorade National Athlete of the Year. Goethals joins former UW star quarterback Brock Huard as the only other UW signee to have won the award.

Though she could have signed with just about any school in the country, Goethals fell in love with the UW and the Emerald City.

“The whole campus was just amazing, and I just really liked the coaches, the team, and the surrounding area,” Goethals said.

After being buried in the snow winter after winter, Goethals has welcomed the Northwest with open arms.

“It’s so different here, but I like it a lot better, especially the weather,” Goethals said. “It also seems like the people here are so much nicer.” The mild-mannered Midwesterner has not forgotten her roots, though. With a gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone approach, Goethals’ work ethic and toughness are easy to spot.

“Megan is a straight-shooter, and you can perceive a certain toughness from her,” Metcalf said. “If you were to guess, ask her a few questions, you could definitely tell where she comes from, and that is a great thing.”

Just like every college freshman, it took Goethals some time to adjust to college life. After a slow start last fall, Goethals found her footing during the track season and hasn’t let go since.

“Last year I had a hard time when I first came here — I put a lot of pressure on myself, and it’s something that I have had to get better at,” Goethals said. “I had a rough fall, but it progressively got better as the year went on — ending it the way I did was perfect, it was what I was hoping for coming into college.”

Now with a year under her belt, Goethals has stepped into more of a leadership role on this year’s squad. Her energetic, positive attitude has garnered her a substantial amount of respect amongst her teammates, and her coaches have begun to notice as well.

“At the end of every season, I ask the kids, ‘Who is the leader of our team?’” Metcalf said. “A lot of kids on our team say Megan Goethals.”

Goethals has also forged some great friendships with the other girls on the team, and that has made this year’s squad a close-knit group.

“This year has been so much better than last year,” Goethals said. “Now I have good friendships with a lot of the girls, and our team is more on the same page.”

Goethals is also very close with her family, with three siblings close in age. Though they aren’t able to see her run as often as they have been accustomed to in the past, they have still been able to attend a few meets in her collegiate career.

“They come whenever I am out in the Midwest,” Goethals said. “They’ll come to the Wisconsin meet this season, it’s like an eight-hour drive from our house.”

Even though she is over 2,000 miles from home, Goethals has found another family in the UW cross-country team.

“She is now very comfortable in her surroundings,” Metcalf said. “Megan is a very trusting individual; she trusts her teammates and the coaching staff, and we have a great relationship.”

Reach reporter Jake Parduhn at sports@dailyuw.com or on Twitter @JPARD27.

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