Friendship helps track and field athletes go the distance


Junior track and field hurdler Meghan Illig formed a bond with distance runner teammate Holly Goergen in their freshman season. Both Illig and Goergen have set school records this season.

Illig said Goergen is someone she has always been able to seek advice and guidance from.

“Holly Goergen has been my closest friend throughout college,” Illig said. “We met my freshmen year, but we became really close my sophomore year. We both really encourage each other and I think that’s something that’s really important to have in a teammate. She helps me not only with track, but just life in general.”

Illig set two school records during the Rhodes College invite including the 100 and 400 meter hurdle events. For her efforts, she was named St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) player of the week for March 27.

Illig said she has worked on perfecting her skills this season, which she feels has led to her success.

“I think it’s the dedication that I’ve shown throughout the years,” Illig said. “I’ve been running since fifth grade and I’ve been really involved with it ever since, rather it be on teams or just fun. I’ve just always had a lot of fun with it, I’ve never wanted to quit once.”

Illig also competes as a sprinter and opened the season setting a school record in the 400 meter dash at the Principia Relays with a time of 1:00.51. She held four other school records in that category prior to the Principia College Invite.

Illig said the Principia College Invite meet was particularly special because her coaches gave her the confidence to go out and set more records. She said her coaches gave her the extra push that she needed to elevate herself to another level of greatness.

“My coaches really push me and always encourage me to perform well,” Illig said. “They give me a positive mindset and make me feel like I can do things if I just trust the workout and trust the things that they’re telling me.”

During the John Creer Invitational at Lindenwood University on April 1, Illig broke her own school record in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 1:04.23.

Illig said a great deal of her success comes from practicing with the team and working on her techniques. At practice the team works on a variety of warm-ups and drills to help them prepare for their track meets.

“We’ll do hurdle hop-overs, we’ll do acceleration, block-starts and a lot of warm-ups,” Illig said. “As far as hurdles go, it kind of depends on the technique. There are so many different things that you think of when you’re running it, but I just try to focus on what my coach wants me to do. That could either be leaning really low off the hurdle, keeping good arms and just keeping the technique that you’ve learned as you race.”

Goergen said Illig is her closest friend on the track team.

“We really just have a great time together,” Goergen said. “We’re always joking around and stuff, and she’s a really kind person so she’s fun to be around.”

Goergen recalled a time when Illig was there to provide some encouragement for her when she was feeling unsure of herself.

“We had this workout where you could choose to do either five or six reps, and Meg and I were the only ones that chose to do six,” Goergen said. “Halfway through I was saying ‘I can’t do this Meg, why did we go for six,’ and she was like ‘Holly, but we’re doing it now, we’re crushing it, we’re doing so good.’ We were going above and beyond, and she told me we were going to be just fine.”

Goergen said she is very happy Illig has performed as well as she has. She said throughout her success she has maintained a sense of humility and she often jokes with her about how modest she is.

“I am so happy for her, she’s a humble person, she tries to be modest,” Goergen said. “I try to be really obnoxious to her to make up for that. One time I was joking around telling her ‘get on my back, I’m going to take you on your victory lap.’ I’m always obnoxious to her, telling her that she’s the best in the world and stuff.”

Illig has shown her versatility by the way she has competed in a variety of different track and field categories. She is among one of the top finishers in over 20 categories.

Head coach Dan Graber said Illig’s strong work ethic and willingness to compete in a variety of fields is what makes her a special player.

“She does everything that we ask of her training wise and it’s really hard because you’re on your own a lot as a track and field athlete, especially in the offseason,” Graber said. “She doesn’t skip days, I’d say that in her three years that she’s been here so far, she’s maybe missed one or two days. She’s a cross country and track and field athlete so her season starts in the summer and goes all the way through May.”

Graber said that he knows Illig has aspirations of competing in the track and field NCAA nationals, but he said he doesn’t want to force that on her.

“We don’t ever want to tell an athlete that we expect her to make the national meet or anything like that, but if everything goes perfect, she has the potential to be a national qualifying player,” Graber said.

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