Girls' track Athlete of the Year: Sydni Meunier

GIBSON CITY — Sydni Meunier's training regimen provides ample food for thought.

A two-event individual state champion for two consecutive years, the recent Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley graduate made sure her body was prepared for the gruelling grind of competitive running.

"If you put good in, you get good out," Meunier said.

She would be a dietician's delight. It started when a middle school coach encouraged her not to drink soda during the track and field season.

Her parents were already setting a good example.

"There's always fruit on the counter," mother Patti Meunier said.

Sydni did more than notice.

"My family taught healthy habits," Meunier said, "and the older I got, I took it into my own hands. My lunch was carrots instead of chips."

She didn't have to force herself into good nutritional practices.

"Fresh fruit is my favorite food," Meunier said. "I could eat apples every day."

There were times, she would indulge.

"I'd make chips more of a treat," she said. "I wouldn't deprive myself. If I were at my grandparents, I'd have cake, but I'd work on moderation. You feel better when you've made healthy choices."

Mike Meunier, her father, recognizes there are doubters.

"People say it's overblown," he said, "but if you have the proper fuel from your food, it won't hurt. It worked for us."

* * *

There was no holding Sydni Meunier back on the track.

She was determined not to become complacent after the successes of her junior year.

"Sometimes, people get satisfied," Meunier said, "but I worked extra hard and set higher goals. I knew other girls were a lot better."

In her high school farewell season, Meunier established times that were not only good for this year, but the best ever recorded by an area girl in both the 800 and the 1,600 meters. The previous 1,600 mark was set 11 years before Meunier was born.

In a year where area athletes accounted for state championships in seven of 18 IHSA events, Meunier was the choice to headline The News-Gazette All-Area team as the girls' Athlete of the Year.

Meunier trained hard and ran fast, but the Notre Dame recruit made certain she was well-rested. That, too, was a part of the master plan.

"It's important to get a lot of sleep and I function better when I do," Meunier said. "At the end of the season, I'd go to bed earlier.

"That makes a difference. There's a confidence. You get a good night's sleep and you feel better."

* * *

Mike Meunier logged his daughter's training mileage in previous years. He recognized that what she did as a junior needed to be intensified for this season, yet he was aware of overexertion.

"The whole key is not to get hurt," Mike Meunier said. "You have to maintain or increase (workouts) slightly, but not overdo it. No matter how hard you train, if you're hurt, you can't do anything. Any little thing can make a difference.

"Why chance it?"

Following the basic plan which worked well when Sydni was a junior, the Meuniers tweaked it this spring. If last year's workout included eight timed 400-meter runs at 75 seconds each, this year's workout included nine runs at 75 seconds. Or, for variety, eight repetitions, but at 73 seconds each.

"I push hard, but it's controlled. A lot of my training was more focused on the mile," Sydni Meunier said. "The faster my mile gets, the faster my 800 gets. My times started dropping and towards the end of the season, I was running 2:15s (in the 800) pretty consistently."

* * *

Meunier made her breakthrough at state as a junior, setting herself up as a possible state champion with impressive semifinal performances.

It seemed like everyone in the track and field world noticed.

"I was getting emails (from college coaches) after the prelims and before the state finals," Meunier said.

That was nothing compared to the happenings a little more than a month after her junior season had ended.

"On July 1 (the date college coaches can call seniors-to-be), everything exploded," Meunier said. "Some were ones we'd heard from (by letters or emails). Some we hadn't heard from at all."

High-profile programs were interested in Meunier.

"We'd look at caller ID and it was cool to see all the names popping up," Mike Meunier said. "The University of Arkansas and Notre Dame were the first two calls of the day."

The first day, the family fielded calls from 18 university coaches, a full day that lasted well past the supper hour.

* * *

On the surface, it sounded like the ideal situation. A Who's Who of elite colleges joined in the recruiting process for Meunier.

In reality, Meunier said, "it was exhausting to go through the process."

She was limited to five college-paid recruiting visits, but was confused.

"How am I supposed to know which five to take when they're all great schools," she wondered.

Last summer was devoted to making unofficial visits — in other words, paid for by the Meuniers — "so I could get acclimated and figure what I liked."

She laughs now at the evolution of her mindset.

"At first, I said I don't care how far (away) it is, I want to go somewhere warm," she said. "I don't like the winters."

After a car trip to Arkansas, Sydni Meunier had rearranged her priorities.

"That was nine hours and I thought that would be pretty far," she said. "I don't want to miss what my brothers and sisters are doing. I want to be around my family and what they are a part of."

Notre Dame worked well, she said, because of the proximity and also since "it's secluded with a lot of trees and pathways and I liked the cleanness of it," Meunier said.

* * *

Meunier is about to embark on an adventure which will provide new challenges. All colleges that recruited her wanted her as a combination cross-country/track and field runner.

GCMS does not offer cross-country and Meunier will be a novice at the 3-mile, or longer, races in the fall. She will be prepared.

Meunier continues to workout with Tyler Brucker, a personal trainer with Elite Performances, which is associated with Gibson Area Hospital.

"He designs a program to meet your goals," Mike Meunier said.

His program includes strength and conditioning as well as flexibility, range of motion and endurance.

"He makes every step more powerful," Sydni Meunier said.

Her performance two years running is a testament to Meunier's power. Her goals have always been easy to determine.

"If you're going to spend time doing something, why wouldn't you try to be the best at it," she said. "Otherwise, it's wasted time in the long run."

Sydni Meunier ... at a glance

The numbers: Two-time state champion in both the 800 and 1,600 meters. Ran the fastest time ever by an area athlete (2:11.30) in winning the 800 as a senior. In the state semis, ran the fastest 1,600 time ever by an area athlete (4:50.75). Helped the victorious 1,600 relay run the second-quickest time ever by an area foursome (3:59.22).
Favorite athlete: Shalane Flanagan
Favorite entertainer: Carrie Underwood
Favorite class: Anatomy and physiology
Favorite store: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Favorite movie: What Happens in Vegas
Favorite restaurants: Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings
Favorite car: Ford Mustang convertible
First job: Babysitting
Three things on my bucket list: Travel the world, run a marathon, have a family
Season Highlight: Getting second place as a team at state from winning the (meet-ending) 4-by-4 relay.

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