Created on Wednesday, 06 February 2013 Written by AARON LaBATT
With great sacrifice comes great reward. No one knows that better than Meghan Vogel.
West Liberty-Salem’s Meghan Vogel, center, signed her letter of intent to run cross country and track at Penn State University on Wednesday. Seated from the left, front row, are her father Jason Vogel and mother Ann Vogel; and back row: boys head track and field coach Bart Zirkle, boys head cross country coach Mike Louden, Father Patrick Sheridan and junior high track and field coach Mike Freese. (EXAMINER PHOTO | AARON LaBATT)
Whether that meant putting in extra miles at practice or giving up a higher finish at the state meet to help a fallen runner, the West Liberty-Salem distance star saw her hard work pay off Wednesday when she signed a letter of intent to compete in cross country and track at Penn State University.
“I’m really excited,” said Vogel. “Since I was little I’ve always liked Penn State. It was either them or Michigan growing up in the midwest. I knew the Big Ten Conference was where I wanted to compete, so I’m thankful I can go there.”
A Division III state champion in the 1,600 last spring, Vogel had several Division I offers. Rather than go to a program where she would be one of the best runners right away, she made the choice to challenge herself.
“I wanted to go a route where I would get pushed more,” said Vogel. “There were a couple of Division I programs where I would have been their top runner. The caliber of girls at Penn State is phenomenal. To say I am on that team and attempting to make myself a better runner is what I wanted to do.”
The Nittany Lions’ cross country team placed 14th at the NCAA championships last fall, their third top 15 finish in the last four years. Five of their runners finished in the top 50.
“I think Meghan is definitely up to the challenge,” said Meghan’s mother and head coach Ann Vogel. “Of all the schools she looked at, Penn State had the biggest challenges for Meghan. We talked to the coaches and they have a great program for freshmen coming in. I’m not concerned about the transition. It will be a great challenge for her to better herself.”
In addition to her state title in track, Vogel led the Tigers’ cross country team to four state meet appearances. They finished as high as third her junior year. She also placed in the top 10 twice as an individual, finishing sixth as a junior and fifth as a senior.
The WL-Salem standout also displayed great character. As has been well documented, she helped Arlington’s Arden McMath to the finish line in the 3,200 at last spring’s state meet after McMath had collapsed on the track.
Vogel also seriously considered Butler University and the University of Toledo.
“I’m most proud of her for just accepting this challenge,” said Ann Vogel. “She could have gone to a smaller Division I school and made a bigger impact, but she wanted a little something more and get out of her comfort zone. She was definitely a big fish in a small pond and for her to change it up and do this makes me even prouder than her going to Penn State.”
The ironic part of Vogel’s signing is that she was not initially recruited by the Nittany Lions. The senior took the initiative to e-mail Penn State head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan and asked to visit.
After a trip to Happy Valley, Alford-Sullivan and her staff were impressed enough to offer Vogel a scholarship.
“It’s a Big Ten school, so they have phenomenal times,” said Vogel. “My time of 4:58 is solid, but nationally it’s just an OK time. I was intimidated and not sure what to expect. I didn’t know at first if they wanted me, especially because I e-mailed them first. It ended up being the opposite of what I thought, which I was thankful for.”
Penn State’s coaching staff is led by Alford-Sullivan, who is the head coach and director of operations for the boys and girls programs.
Alford-Sullivan was recently named the president of the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. She boasts an impressive coaching resume with 138 All-Americans, six Big Ten team titles, 78 Big Ten individual champions, four NCAA individual champions and two NCAA trophy teams.
“They have one of the best coaching staffs in the nation,” said Meghan Vogel. “They are great people. The team had chemistry that other schools didn’t when I visited. The girls were fun there. It was a nice atmosphere and I had a really good experience on my visit. After I got home that day I knew that was the school for me.”