Kimber Meyer: On to Nationals after leading team to stellar MIAC and Regional performances

Race. Celebrate. Study.

Just beyond the decorated ribbons of the St. Olaf cross country course’s finishing straightaway, an embrace between Kimber Meyer ’17 and head coach Betsy Emerson embodied the stunning start to Meyer’s collegiate career.

Her first semester at Macalester keeps on getting better and better. Perhaps making it into her first choice FYC was a sign of what was to come. In Meyer’s three most recent cross country meets, she has broken two school records, finished All-MIAC, All-Region and qualified for the national meet with the highest regional placing by a Scot since Megan Auger’s victory in 1999.

With Meyer front-running at conference and regionals, the Scots raced to their best finishes since Emerson took over as coach in 2010.

Teammates on Kimber:  “Kimber comes into every practice with a level of intensity and focus that is indicative of a dedicated and motivated runner. She really does do everything with intention, something Betsy encouraged us to do early on in the season.” -Elena Torry-Schrag ’17 “In cross country, there's always going to be some good days and some days that really hurt. Although I'm sure Kimber must have had a bad day at some point this season, I've never seen it affect her performance or heard her complain.” -Karlyn Russell ’17 “She always has her water bottle, always looks well rested, always does the ice bath and stretches. She even asked me to teach her some hip strengthening stretches and incorporated that into her training as well. She knows the little things counts, and that's awesome.” -Caitlin Toner ’15 “After this week’s regional race I gave her a huge hug and congratulated her. Her response was: ‘You know, I got up today and felt pretty good and decided to go for it,’ but the way she said it was as if she could have been talking about an activity with much lower stakes. This down to earth attitude is something that I really respect and admire in a teammate with such incredible talent.” -McKenna Bernard ’14 “I truly believe that her example helped me race well this season.” -Torry-Schrag “At Regionals in the last hundred meters, she had an incredible kick and started closing in on the fourth runner. The look on her face was fierce, determined, and unforgettable. I knew she wasn't going to give up, and that was truly inspirational.” - Caitlin Toner ’15 “They were in small groups and she was asking what it takes to go to Nationals, and I just overheard it from a distance. It was just so cool, because it took her a while to come around and ask that question. As a first year, it’s a tough question to bring up in front of your teammates. Her teammates were so good.  They were, right off the bat like “that is an excellent goal, you go for it, don’t be afraid to put that out there and don’t be afraid to ask that question.” And that was really memorable for me because she was already thinking about it right when we started. The wheels were spinning for her already.” -Coach Betsy Emerson “During our first long run of pre-season, I decided to try and keep up with Kimber on the way back from the capitol. After about a mile and a half, my Garmin told me that we were running 7:15 mile pace, with over three miles left to go. That was the last time for a long while that I tried to run with her.” -Torry-Schrag  “Kimber learned how to square dance in the hallway of the Leonard Center in five minutes for our annual first-year talent show with Olivia Thorp and I. She did great!” -McKenna Bernard ’14 “We were doing a tempo workout on the track... Kimber zooms past me and I yell ‘Shiver me timber, it's Kimber!’ Still running, she turns around to look at me and starts laughing.” -Toner

Teammates on Kimber:
“Kimber comes into every practice with a level of intensity and focus that is indicative of a dedicated and motivated runner. She really does do everything with intention, something Betsy encouraged us to do early on in the season.” -Elena Torry-Schrag ’17
“In cross country, there’s always going to be some good days and some days that really hurt. Although I’m sure Kimber must have had a bad day at some point this season, I’ve never seen it affect her performance or heard her complain.” -Karlyn Russell ’17
“She always has her water bottle, always looks well rested, always does the ice bath and stretches. She even asked me to teach her some hip strengthening stretches and incorporated that into her training as well. She knows the little things counts, and that’s awesome.” -Caitlin Toner ’15
“After this week’s regional race I gave her a huge hug and congratulated her. Her response was: ‘You know, I got up today and felt pretty good and decided to go for it,’ but the way she said it was as if she could have been talking about an activity with much lower stakes. This down to earth attitude is something that I really respect and admire in a teammate with such incredible talent.” -McKenna Bernard ’14
“I truly believe that her example helped me race well this season.” -Torry-Schrag
“At Regionals in the last hundred meters, she had an incredible kick and started closing in on the fourth runner. The look on her face was fierce, determined, and unforgettable. I knew she wasn’t going to give up, and that was truly inspirational.” – Caitlin Toner ’15
“They were in small groups and she was asking what it takes to go to Nationals, and I just overheard it from a distance. It was just so cool, because it took her a while to come around and ask that question. As a first year, it’s a tough question to bring up in front of your teammates. Her teammates were so good. They were, right off the bat like “that is an excellent goal, you go for it, don’t be afraid to put that out there and don’t be afraid to ask that question.” And that was really memorable for me because she was already thinking about it right when we started. The wheels were spinning for her already.” -Coach Betsy Emerson
“During our first long run of pre-season, I decided to try and keep up with Kimber on the way back from the capitol. After about a mile and a half, my Garmin told me that we were running 7:15 mile pace, with over three miles left to go. That was the last time for a long while that I tried to run with her.” -Torry-Schrag
“Kimber learned how to square dance in the hallway of the Leonard Center in five minutes for our annual first-year talent show with Olivia Thorp and I. She did great!” -McKenna Bernard ’14
“We were doing a tempo workout on the track… Kimber zooms past me and I yell ‘Shiver me timber, it’s Kimber!’ Still running, she turns around to look at me and starts laughing.” -Toner

MIAC

The MIAC Championships were a great success for both Meyer and the team, as her fourth place finish led Macalester to its first top four finish since 1999. Meyer battled with St. Kate’s junior Ailee Larson for about two-thirds of the race, but Larson pulled ahead to take third, with Meyer finishing 15 seconds back, in fourth. Meyer’s performance was backed up by several big races from her teammates, leading to a result even the coaches had not imagined was within their reach.

“Our team collectively put together a really great race,” Emerson said. “We went in hoping for top six and at times in the meetings leading up to the meet our gals said lets try for the top five. So when we raced to a fourth place finish it was elation because I don’t know if anyone was expecting our team to be top four in the conference. We were hoping to be in the top half but to be in that position [fourth] was really special for the program; for us to surprise pretty much everyone in the conference, the coaches, and to bump in front of both of those teams [Gustavus and St. Thomas] was special. I don’t know when the last time Macalester beat St. Thomas, but I could bet its been many years.”

Seniors Anna Schmitz ’14 and Emma Van Emmerik ’14 had their top career finishes, placing ninth and 31st, respectively. Both dropped their PRs (personal records) by over one minute in their final collegiate cross country season. “She [Van Emmerik], flipped her time from last year at conference,” Emerson said. “Last year she ran 25:39 and this year she ran 23:59. Her improvement was key to our team’s success.”

Mira Ensley-Field ’17 and Elena Torry-Schrag ’17 rounded out the top five for the Scots, giving them three scoring freshman. Emerson praised Torry-Schrag’s consistency throughout the season and Ensley-Field’s ability to contribute despite injury.

Sarah Jo Devore ’17 had a breakthrough race, crushing both the 26 and 25 minute barriers for the first time on her way to finishing sixth on the team with a time of 24:43. Devore was iron-deficient for much of the season but made her recovery just at the right time. “She is another perfect example of someone who started out, just gangbusters, running really well right at the beginning of our training,” Emerson said. “Then we found out she was really iron-deficient, to the point where we really had to back off with her training. For her to be able to come back and be in our top six at conference and also to be our sixth runner again at regionals, she’s just scratching the surface. She’s going to be a great collegiate runner. Especially if we can keep her healthy.”

In just her first race of the season, captain Lucy Andrews ’14 finished seventh on the team after dealing with both mononucleosis and a stress reaction. Following MIAC, Andrews and the Scots had two weeks to train for their next meet, the Regional Championships.

Regionals

At the Central Region Championships in Northfield, the race unfolded very similarly to the conference meet for Meyer. “I wanted to be in control for the first mile and the first half, and then really be able to pick it up in the second half,” Meyer said.

Meyer and Larson ran the first two miles stride for stride near the front of the race once again, but this time it was Meyer who broke away around the three kilometer mark. “I went out with [Larson] but I was feeling good halfway through so I pushed the pace,” she said.

Meyer also reeled in the Wartburg senior duo of Sammi Bruett and Haddie Vawter late in the race and just ran out of real estate at the end as she closed in on St. Olaf junior Jorden Johnson. With a fifth place finish and a school record of 22:05, Meyer secured a place at the National Championships in Hanover, Ind. next weekend. The race was her third PR in four 6k’s this season, and her time put her nearly 30 seconds ahead of the next fastest 6k runner in the school’s history. She dropped 48 seconds from her time at MIAC, the most out of all MIAC runners. “Kimber just had a breakthrough race,” Emerson said. “She was pivotal, that was major for her to be fifth, it helps your team score a lot.”

Meyer wasn’t the only Scot to have a great race at Regionals. Schmitz also took All-Region honors, placing 19th in 23:03, putting her just a few spots out of nationals qualification and helping the team to a top 10 regional finish for the first time since they qualified for nationals in 2005. “I kept telling her for two weeks you could be All-Regional,” Emerson said. “For her to be 19th in that region was really, really amazing. She ran the best time she’s ever ran in her career in her last meet.”

With just two weeks to improve between MIAC and Regionals, Andrews was able to take 36 seconds off her conference time. She posted the third fastest time of her career at Regionals, which moved her to fourth on the team. Emerson was very impressed with the way she overcame adversity this season. “It’s a testament to her determination, her aspiration to be a key part of our team, to never give up on that hope of ‘I can make that top seven’ even though she never raced this season until conference.” Devore ran well once again as she PR’ed for the second meet in a row with an aggressive start that gave her teammates someone to chase. The squad of seven had four PR’s and five season bests at St. Olaf, earning them a 10th place finish as the number four MIAC team. Emerson was especially pleased to see over half of the regionals team composed of freshman. “It’s so incredible to have those first-year women [Meyer, Ensley-Field, Devore, Torry-Schrag] in our group to be racing at Regionals,” Emerson said. “I think that is critical for our future.”

Get to know Kimber: Q: When did you start running? A: Sixth grade on an intramural team. Q: How many miles did you run this summer?  A: Around 40 per week. Q: What is your pre-meet routine?  A: I always have a banana, sometimes two. They are a really good pre-race food for me. The night before a race, I don’t do homework. I usually watch a movie or let myself relax and I always get at least eight hours of sleep. Q: When you aren’t running or doing schoolwork, what do you like to do? A: I’m in the Mac Public Health Org, and I like reading and watching movies.  Q: Where do you work? A: Mailing Services. It’s a pretty fun job.  Q: Who are your biggest inspirations? A: Collectively all the seniors on the team have really inspired me this season. They all are dedicated and really close. They’re always enthusiastic. They can have fun and work hard at the same time. Betsy is a very inspiring person especially as a coach. Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?  A: “Live in the moment.” Q: What are you thinking of majoring in?  A: Biology, with a possible concentration in Community and Global Health. Q: What class have you enjoyed the most in your first semester? A: My first-year course, Contagion.  Q: Favorite sport besides running? A: Soccer. Q:Some teammates you admire? A: Sarah Jonathan ’16, Caitlin Toner ’15 and Elena Torry-Schrag ’17. They are all really nice, happy and fun people who are also really hard working and dedicated, and the three of them all run together and are really close friends. Q: Favorite books? A: The Fault in Our Stars, 1984, A Brave New World, The Hunger Games. Q: Favorite band/musician? A: Imagine Dragons, The Script, OneRepublic. Q: Favorite movie? A: Shawshank Redemption. Photo by Erin Daly '14.

Get to know Kimber:
Q: When did you start running?
A: Sixth grade on an intramural team.
Q: How many miles did you run this summer?
A: Around 40 per week.
Q: What is your pre-meet routine?
A: I always have a banana, sometimes two. They are a really good pre-race food for me. The night before a race, I don’t do homework. I usually watch a movie or let myself relax and I always get at least eight hours of sleep.
Q: When you aren’t running or doing schoolwork, what do you like to do?
A: I’m in the Mac Public Health Org, and I like reading and watching movies.
Q: Where do you work?
A: Mailing Services. It’s a pretty fun job.
Q: Who are your biggest inspirations?
A: Collectively all the seniors on the team have really inspired me this season. They all are dedicated and really close. They’re always enthusiastic. They can have fun and work hard at the same time. Betsy is a very inspiring person especially as a coach.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: “Live in the moment.”
Q: What are you thinking of majoring in?
A: Biology, with a possible concentration in Community and Global Health.
Q: What class have you enjoyed the most in your first semester?
A: My first-year course, Contagion.
Q: Favorite sport besides running?
A: Soccer.
Q:Some teammates you admire?
A: Sarah Jonathan ’16, Caitlin Toner ’15 and Elena Torry-Schrag ’17. They are all really nice, happy and fun people who are also really hard working and dedicated, and the three of them all run together and are really close friends.
Q: Favorite books?
A: The Fault in Our Stars, 1984, A Brave New World, The Hunger Games.
Q: Favorite band/musician?
A: Imagine Dragons, The Script, OneRepublic.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: Shawshank Redemption.
Photo by Erin Daly ’14.

Academics

Meyer is Macalester’s first athlete of the 2013-2014 year to qualify for the National Championships, and this may be the first of many big collegiate meets for her. She has not let her rigorous cross country schedule deter her from focusing on academics. This can be said for the rest of the team as well, as they have boasted the highest GPA among women’s sports teams in the three years since Emerson arrived at Macalester. “I picked that up almost immediately that it was really important to them,” Emerson said. “All the women that came before them were clearly intelligent, hardworking women, and I wanted to make sure that our team kept that GPA award.” While the team awaited the awards ceremony at the Regional Meet, Meyer pulled out her books and got to work. It’s no surprise that a major factor in Meyer’s college decision was her commitment to academics.

“A big reason I chose Division III was because I wanted to focus on academics,” Meyer said. “Division I running takes up a lot of your life.” According to teammate Karlyn Russell ’17, Meyer is also known for working on her homework as the team recovers in the ice baths post-practice. The transition to college life has not been too difficult for Meyer as her high school experience was fairly similar. “I think I have found a good balance between [academics and running],” she said. “It helps to go on a run to get a break from studying. The team has a social atmosphere so being with them helps as well.”

High School Experience

Meyer has one week to prepare for Nationals, and despite her first-year status, she may have more big meet experience than many other qualifiers. Running for Naperville North (Ill.) in high school, Meyer made a trip her senior year to run at the Nike Cross Nationals, held in Portland, Ore. She was Naperville’s fifth runner at the meet, helping them finish 15th in the country. “Having that experience of competing with lots of really fast people, and a lot of runners really helped prepare me for what it will be like next weekend,” Meyer said.

Nationals

The top 35 finishers at Nationals are awarded All-American status. With Meyer’s recent accomplishments, she has a great shot of becoming the first Scot to obtain this honor since Megan Auger in 1999. A top 20 finish is also on the table and would put Meyer in esteemed company, as only five freshman in the past nine years have pulled off this feat.

“I told her that in my years of coaching I’ve been to a lot of national meets and I’ve coached two national champions from Luther,” Emerson said. “When they were first year runners I’m not sure they were as quite as good as she is right now.”

In her race at Regionals, she finished eight seconds ahead of Bruett, who placed 13th at Nationals last year, and Meyer was within a second of Johnson, who placed ninth at the National Meet as a sophomore.

There are eight regions in the nation, with each having fairly equal representation in terms of the number of schools and athletes. The Central Region has seen a variation in their success at the NCAA’s. In 2010 and 2011, four from the region were named All-Americans. In 2012, the top nine finishers from the Central Region all placed in the top 22 at the National Meet. Of the nine All-Americans from last year, just three have graduated, and with the addition of freshman sensations Noelle Olson (St. Olaf) and Meyer, the region looks to be well represented once again.

Future

This year’s team is graduating a number of key contributors, in terms of scoring and culture. “We’re certainly losing a phenomenal group of leaders, not only just great leaders, but people like Anna [Schmitz] who help a team score because she is placing so high,” Emerson said. Still, this doesn’t negate the high expectations for Meyer and the rest of this year’s freshman class. “I think in the upcoming years, if she [Meyer] can continue to develop, what’s going to happen is all her teammates are going to continue to rise with her,” Emerson said. “I firmly believe that if you want to have a team that can really contend for conference titles and regionals titles, which is what I learned coaching at Luther, you need a front runner.”

Where to Watch

The gun goes off at 9:55 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23 for the women’s race, and it will be streamed live from the NCAA website.

Additional reporting by Trevor Maggart