By PATRICK SLACK
The Royalton girls track and field team was heading home from a meet in Pillager five years ago and Megan Wiener was ecstatic.
A seventh grader at the time, Wiener had just placed third in the 100-meter dash in one of the first meets of her career.
“I was so happy and came home to tell my mom, ‘My legs were going faster than I knew they could,’” Wiener said.
They would keep going faster.
And even if Wiener couldn’t always tell just how fast, there were no doubts from her competitors.
After that early meet, Wiener competed in the 100 in every meet the rest of her career, with her opponents almost always seeing her cross the finish line while lagging behind.
Heading into her seventh grade year, Wiener couldn’t decide if she should play softball or run track.
None of her three older siblings had tried track, but a little prodding from a teacher at school convinced her to try both for a season.
The Royalton program, as well as its record book, have not been the same since.
“My social teacher Mr. Snyder told me to give track a try,” Wiener said. “At first I was only interested in the high jump, but as I started practicing, my coaches helped me find what I was good at.”
“I did not know what I was capable of until I tried track,” she said. “I was always scared to try the triple jump, but Coach Carlson talked me into it one season. I was not the best at it, but I enjoyed doing it.”
It wasn’t long until she was one of the best, though, placing against juniors and seniors by the end of her eighth grade year.
“When she made our honor roll as a freshman, the coaching staff thought we might have someone special,” Royalton girls track and field head coach Monica Makela said.
Nothing illustrated that better than when she became the first athlete from Royalton to be invited to compete at the Hamline Elite Meet in St. Paul, a prestigious event that includes the top athletes throughout the state regardless of class to compete during the middle of the season.
Out of 18 participants in the 100, only two were from Class A, with Wiener placing 13th against the state’s best from schools like Robbinsdale, Hopkins, Roseville and Totino-Grace.
“Megan has been one of the top three finishers in most events she’s entered since,” Makela said. “She was determined to hold the top spot in every event she was in.”
That happened to be quite a lengthy list, as she competed in the 100, 200 and 400 on the track as well as the long jump, triple jump and high jump in the field.
Fortunately for opposing teams, individuals are limited to competing in four events in a given meet.
“Thirty or more team points are a huge jump on the competition,” Makela said. “Most people think of track as only an individual sport, ‘I do my events and then I’m done,’ but that team aspect is there.”
“She has taken the younger sprinters and worked with them in drills and talked about key points to running the best 200 meter or 400 meter,” she said. “Megan leads by example.”
As a sophomore, Wiener tied the school’s high jump record and broke the school records in the long jump with a distance of 16-feet, 11.5-inches) and the 400 with a time of 1 minute, 0.22 seconds.
She appeared to be on the verge of breaking through and reaching the state meet as a junior, reaching the qualifying standard time during the section preliminaries in the 100.
But she missed out by the slimmest of margins in the finals, finishing three thousandths of a second off of the necessary time.
Entering this year, she set out for one last run at state, dominating her regular season foes along the way.
The postseason began with the Prairie Conference meet at St. John’s University, May 16.
Wiener secured a conference championship in the triple jump with a distance of 32-feet, 11-inches, and took second in the 100 (13.09), 200 (27.03) and long jump (16-feet, 3.5-inches), taking home four all-conference awards.
Altogether, she compiled 34 team points, single-handedly outscoring two of the other seven teams competing.
Wiener carried that into the sub-section meet at Pierz, May 22, but instead of competing in four events as she typically did, she and Makela decided to try to keep her fresher by only entering two.
She placed second in the long jump with a mark of 15-feet, 11-inches and winning the 100 in 13.24 to easily advance to sections and one step from state one final time.
“I did not know what to expect,” Wiener said. “I did not want to get my hopes up again, only to just miss it again.”
“From past experiences, I knew I had to stay calm, focused and be ready for anything,” she said. “I knew that I would not be happy with anything but my best and I pushed myself.”
She had to settle for fourth in the 100 in 13.27 against a field that included the eventual state champion, senior Brooke Aeikens from Annandale, but used her sprinter’s speed to her advantage in her final event.
“Megan’s form is very smooth,” Makela said. “She’s quick down the runway, explosive off the board and reaches out through the air.”
After Aeikens also claimed the top spot in the long jump, Wiener was left competing for one final spot with Melrose Area senior Hailey Brinkman, who had defeated her at sub-sections and would later win the state triple jump, and Litchfield junior Greta Walsh.
Needing a big jump to move on, Wiener crushed her distance from eight days prior by nine inches, finishing at 16-feet, 8-inches to realize her ultimate goal.
“It had finally happened,” Wiener said. “All my hard work over the years had paid off. I was happy and excited.
“I knew anything was possible if I was ready to go and wanted it bad enough,” she said.
“Like a dream come true,” Makela said.
In her final high school meet, Wiener once again topped the opponent who had last defeated her, beating Aeikens and the majority of the top athletes from the state to place seventh in the long jump and reach the medal stand with a distance of 16-feet, 5.25-inches.
“The state meet is so special, just to make it there is incredible,” Makela said. “Megan had been to Hamline before, which helped with the nerves.”
“It was an incredible experience and I could not have asked for a better way to end my career,” Wiener said. “Every athlete down there was focused and friendly.”
“She isn’t the first Royalton female to make it to the state meet, but she is certainly one of the most versatile sprinter and jumpers we’ve had,” Makela said. “She holds honors in all jumping and sprinting events.”
“Megan is a very hard, determined worker,” Makela said. “She has been a three-sport athlete, one of the top 10 students in her class and holds down a job. She’s busy but focused.”
Wiener finished her career with the top honors in school history in the 400 and long jump and is in a three-way tie for the record in the high jump.
She also holds second place in the 100 and 200 and is in third in the triple jump.
“There’s no athlete with more honor roll places than Megan,” Makela said. “It was a privilege to coach someone as hardworking as Megan.
“She’s incredible,” she said. “She has certainly left her mark on Royalton track and field. Her name will be the one future athletes will try to catch.”
MC Record’s Athlete of the Year
Prairie Conference Championship
100 meter: second, 13.09.
200 meter: second, 27.03.
Long jump: second, 16-3.5.
Triple jump: first, 32-11.
Sub-Section 19A meet
100 meter: first, 13.24.
Long jump: second, 15-11.
Section 5A meet
100 meter: fourth, 13.27.
Long jump: second, 16-8.
Class A state championship
Long jump: seventh, 16-5.25.