For a while, it seemed like Meghan Marias might never run free and easy again.
A two-time state medalist in the relays — including one Class 3A title — as a freshman for Lincoln-Way East in 2011, she missed the entire 2012 season while recovering from back surgery.
Marias returned to competition last spring, but a lingering hamstring injury — “that was a repercussion of the back injury; things were not 100 percent,” she says — limited her effectiveness.
Through all the down time physically and down times mentally, she kept in mind something her dad, Chuck, told her: “It’s not what you become, it’s what you overcome in life.”
Marias has overcome a lot, and she has become the fastest sprinter in the state, according to DyestatIl.com, with a Big Ten scholarship in hand and dreams of helping the Griffins defend their Class 3A state title.
It’s the comeback story of the year.
“I knew I wanted to overcome all this,” said Marias, who ranks No. 1 in Illinois outdoors in 2014 in the 100 meters with an 11.53-second effort at the Sandburg Invitational. Her teammate, Alexis Hyshaw, is second at 11.69, and ranks No. 1 in the 200 (24.07), an event in which Marias is third at 24.27.
They are among a deep and talented sprint crew for Lincoln-Way East. Coach Wendy Hegarty also can call on Alexis Pierre-Antoine, Asia Brown, Dana O’Grady, Ololade Ayoola and Jasmine Howell when putting together her lineup for the open dashes and short relays.
That depth is one reason the Griffins remain the Class 3A favorite heading into this week’s sectionals even after graduating one of the greatest runners in state history, current Texas A&M freshman Aaliyah Brown.
Putting a healthy Marias into the mix has been a happy development for Hegarty, who marvels at her senior’s grit and determination: “Just to get through the rehab to go out and walk and be a normal teenager …”
“It definitely made me stronger,” said Marias, who will run at Michigan next season. “Never my sophomore year, never did I one day think I was not going to be running again. Actually, my new goals revolved around therapy. I did everything … they told me to do.”
She did it well enough to earn her third state medal last spring, as a member of East’s 1,600 relay team. But this year, she is primed for a breakout performance as an individual as well as being a key cog in the relays.
Marias won the 100 and Hyshaw was second at last week’s SouthWest Suburban Blue meet, and they finished 1-2 in reverse order in the 200.
Expect them to continue pushing each other at Thursday’s Class 3A Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional and again at state in Charleston next week — not to mention in practice.
“Every single day we make each other better,” Marias said.
And every day, she can look back on what she has been through — and how far back she has come in a couple years.