Megan Fleege: Making a Name For Her and Her Team

Megan Fleege: Making a Name For Her and Her Team

When sixth grade Megan Fleege – who was in love with all things sports related – was given the choice between softball and cross country, she chose running over hitting in the ballpark. Fleege was partial to the sport most would call a punishment, and she was familiar with Carterville’s Coach Lori Brown because she had coached Fleege’s older sister.

After the first practice, which was full of agonizing knee pain – aided by wearing knee sleeves 24/7 –  and the desire to give up, she was sure she would not make it much further in the season, let alone accomplish everything she has today.

Fleege pushed through the pain and persevered throughout both her Junior High years and continued onto her Freshman year where things took a turn for the worst.

Despite the team aspect being one of her favorite parts of the sport, it was the very reason she was forced to quit. Notwithstanding her resilience to continue the sport, the Covid-19 pandemic during her Freshman year and forced Fleege to drop Cross Country for the sake of her family. 

The following year, as a sophomore, Fleege was given the opportunity to once again join the team. At the time, her best friend was one of the top runners on the team, and through constant accountability, Fleege saw herself rise from one of the worst runners on the team, to an alternate, and eventual varsity runner.

 “It’s not the place you get into a race, or if you’re the most photogenic person out there. It is you against the clock and no matter if you’re having a good day or a bad day, your time doesn’t lie,” said Fleege.

As she described, cross country is not a place in which the runners are competing with one another, but more so competing with themselves and their time on the clock. Fleege admires the aspect in which cross country is a sport for those who are looking to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.

The Regional Championship her sophomore year unexpectedly turned out to be one of the best moments of her high school career. Fleege began the race in last place, and, by way of perpetuation, she finished in fourth place, later finding out that the girl she was in front of at the finish line was the one point the team needed to win Regionals.

Megan’s success continued throughout her junior year where a team was in need of some leadership.  This gave way to Fleege’s big opportunity, “I felt as though it was my job and my place on the team to step up to team captain,” she described. As well as having a solid team during that year, Carterville had been moved to an easier sectional, making it easier for cross country to make it to state.

The fall sports banquet showcased each fall athlete for their accomplishments and the majority for their good grades. Fleege shared her disappointment at the fact that she was only able to stand up a single time during the banquet, which further motivated her for success in her senior season.

As her senior year kicked off, Fleege made it her goal to make conference and be able to stand on the stage during the banquet, as she said “I put in the work, I tried, and I wanted to be seen [on the final results graphic].” Just as the previous year the sectional had changed, this year the conference changed. The conference was now easier than in years past and led the entire team to believe that they would sweep the conference. They did.

Once the conference meet was on the horizon, Fleege put herself in the mindset that she was not running for first place, but that she only needed to make the top ten. Without running her best race, she finished in eighth place. When she crossed the finish line, her mom was there to congratulate her.

“I grabbed my medal and hugged my mom. She squeezed me so hard I couldn’t breathe ‘cause she knew that I had met the goal I set for myself so long ago.”

— Megan Fleege

As Fleege is a senior, she is currently planning for her future outside of high school. She was almost committed to a college, but turned down the offer saying that running was a sport that anyone can do and that she wants to focus on her academics when she goes to college.

One of the biggest challenges that faced during her high school cross country career was making a name for not only herself, but also the team that is hidden behind the more popular fall sports such as football and volleyball. “Once we won state people finally started realizing that ‘hey we have a cross country team and they put in a lot of effort’.”

Megan’s message that she wants to get to everyone in CHS is that the cross country team puts in a lot of hard work and effort and that while it may not be a spectator sport, it would still be appreciated if there were people in the crowd that were not just parents.

To keep up with the Carterville Cross Country team as well as other Carterville sports and athletes, follow @CartervilleAth on Instagram and X.

About the Contributor
Elise Judd
Elise Judd, Sport Reporter
Elise is a Carterville High School junior. She participates in various clubs and activities such as Educators Rising, Chess Club, and in previous years, color guard. After she graduates, she plans to become a High School English teacher.