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Meghan Ford concludes first collegiate season

Meghan Ford, a 2021 Jamestown High School graduate, recently completed her first collegiate cross country season at Furman University in South Carolina.

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Meghan Ford, center, warms up for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Oct. 15, in Madison, Wisconsin. Courtesy / Phil Ponder

From the time she arrived in Greenville, South Carolina, Meghan Ford knew she had some adjusting to do -- from the course load down to the humidity.

"Furman both academically and athletically has been a very challenging but amazing experience so far and I’m excited to see where the journey takes me," Ford said.

Ford, a 2021 Jamestown High School graduate, took her running career to the next level this past fall, following through with her original decision to run collegiately at Furman University. The Paladins' women's team is currently ranked 34th in the NCAA Division I standings.

The three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in North Dakota Girls Cross Country said she thinks her first season of cross-country out at Furman went well despite the difficulties of finding a routine, getting used to the increased levels of training and taking on a full course load at a challenging university.

"I am running many more miles at Furman than I did in high school," Ford said. "The workouts we do are much longer and I have girls on the team to run them with. Being on a highly ranked Division 1 team, there are a lot of time commitments outside of the one run I have each day."

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Ford said the Paladins travel to some of the team's running locations, do more drills before and after training sessions, do cross-training in the afternoon doing workouts, attend regular meetings with coaches and get appointments for massages and therapy many afternoons during the week.

"The training is much more of a lifestyle than it was in high school," Ford said. "Because I am around other very successful people all day every day, we are all always finding ways to elevate our game from each other.

"Our coaches are very successful, organized and motivational themselves which makes it easy to trust their instruction and execute day-to-day training grids."

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Meghan Ford (1747) keeps pace with other competitors at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 15. Courtesy / Phil Ponder

Ford's best collegiate 5K race came at the Furman Invitational on Sept. 11 when she crossed the finish line with a time of 17 minutes, 11 seconds.

"While I feel I have improved slightly over the season, my performances felt inconsistent and I struggled feeling confident on the starting line at such big races," Ford said. "I had two races where I competed in a good headspace and ran well, but had many others where I struggled to put all of the training together on the day and it showed.

"I’m still figuring everything out day by day and I need to remember that everyone goes through a hard phase of college and to be patient."

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Ford said head coach Robert Gary encourages team members not to compare their times in each race, as each course is supremely different from the others. Ford said instead of comparing times, Gary tells the team to focus on how they executed race tactics on each specific course.

"I am still adjusting to much more chaotic, tactical races in college but I’ve learned so much and have grown a lot from each race," Ford said.

A change in how she looks at her races isn't the only thing Ford has had to adjust to when it comes to running.

"I prepared a little bit for the heat this summer by running at the hottest part of the day, but when I arrived in South Carolina, I more struggled with the humidity," Ford said. "Distance runners call it 'poor man's altitude' because it has similar effects to running at high elevation.

"Eventually, though, I became much more used to it. I do enjoy the weather much more now, I do like running in the cold more and I feel I run better in that weather, but not in weather as cold as North Dakota."

Her love of colder weather could potentially explain Ford's best 6K-race that came at the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invite on Oct. 15 in Madison, Wisconsin. Ford finished the course with a PR of 21 minutes, 44 seconds. The one other 6K she ran on Sept. 17, Ford crossed the line at 21:55.

While her times haven't been as consistent as they were during her prep career, Ford is feeling "the fittest" she ever has.

Ford has been fortunate in her inaugural season in that she hasn't had to deal with any aches, pains or injuries thus far. Ford praised the Furman athletic training staff, saying the trainers can locate and manage any physical issues almost immediately, making it easier for Ford to recover quickly from the aches and pains that tended to slow her down in high school.

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While she successfully wrapped up her first cross-country season, Ford really doesn't have much of a break from competing as she is technically a three-sport athlete for the Paladins, competing in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and field.

"I took a very brief break and now I’m training for indoor which is followed immediately by outdoor," Ford said. "Most extended periods of training without races, we build our mileage back up before adding any workouts in."

Furman's indoor season begins Jan. 15 at the USC Gamecock Opener. The indoor contests are slated to wrap up with the NCAA championships March 11-12. The outdoor season is slated to begin March 18, but how far Ford advances into the spring, still remains to be seen.

"Our outdoor season starts depending on how far I make it through the indoor season with qualifying for certain meets," Ford said. "I am actually training to potentially do the 3000m steeplechase outdoors this spring, but I’ll explore my options a little bit throughout this first season."

Ford said if all goes according to plan and if she qualifies for the outdoor season, she will likely run any events from the 1500-meter run to possibly the 10K.

"I do think the college sports experience has been similar to what I thought before arriving in that it takes up so much time and it’s a very challenging but exciting experience," Ford said. "I have enjoyed the opportunity so far and I am excited to continue growing."

Related Topics: JAMESTOWN HIGH SCHOOL
Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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