To say Fort Mill High senior Meredith Kilburn likes shoes is an understatement. She really doesn’t have a choice, as it comes with her passion for running.
Kilburn has probably put more miles on her shoes this year than on her Kia Optima. That is also why she is one of the best runners – boy or girl – in the state.
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Kilburn, who goes through running shoes about every two months, wears out roughly six pairs a year.
“They are not cheap,” she jokes.
Kilburn, 17, fresh off her Upper State title-winning performance, is a favorite to win the 3A individual state cross-country championship Saturday. She has been a big part of the recent running success at Fort Mill High, which brought home a cross-country championship and a track championship for the girls program last year.
The girls team is led by Kilburn, who is having an outstanding senior season.
“She has always been the backbone of our team,” head cross-country coach Marc Pyrc said. “She has set the tone. She has been getting stronger every week. She is getting herself up for an outstanding run. I would be surprised if she wasn’t in the hunt (come Saturday). This has been her goal for the year.”
Kilburn’s best time of the year going into Saturday’s Upper State meet was an 18:26 at the Wendy’s Invitational. The time tied a school record for a 5,000-meter race (3.1 miles). That also puts her faster than of all but nine boys on the Jackets’ cross-country squad. Kilburn ran a new personal best of 18:26 on her way to winning the Upper State title while pacing her team to a third-place finish.
She has dominated locally, winning the Region IV-AAA crown and the York County Championship meet title, not to mention winning several dual meets. In the bigger races, she has also had everybody playing catch-up. She also won the Furman Invitational, the Trojan Invitational, finished second at the Coaches Classic and finished seventh at the Wendy’s Invitational, which featured runners from several Southeastern states.
As good as she is at running now; the sport didn’t come to her naturally.
“At first I hated it,” she said. “I kept doing it and I started kind of liking it. It’s the challenge. It’s addictive.”
Kilburn started running competitively when she was in the seventh grade, but got her start with the Girls on the Run program while in the fifth grade.
“If you work hard at running it’s going to show, if you slack off it’s going to show,” she said. “It’s fun to challenge yourself to set a goal and then reach that goal.”
Kilburn knew she was something special as an eight-grader as she started running for Nation Ford High. Not only was she fast, but was the best one on the team her two season there. She transferred to Fort Mill her sophomore season.
“I wasn’t good then, but I was decent,” she said.
These days, Kilburn puts in between seven and eight miles a day and averages close to 50 miles a week, taking just Sunday off to rest.
Kilburn said she doesn’t feel any pressure to win a state title this year, but knows how the pressure can get to a person.
“My goals this year were to run as hard as I can and have fun in every race,” she said. “I feel good about my training. I am going to treat it like any other workout. I am going to treat it like any other race.”
Her junior year, Kilburn struggled early on and battled health and school issues, which affected her running.
“I was anemic,” she said. “I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was up studying late for all my classes and I wasn’t recovering. I learned a lesson. I was stressing myself out about school. That was the major thing.”
Kilburn is also in a race academically as she ranks second in her class of over 300 students. She has heard from several schools interested in giving her a scholarship, including Columbia University, Brown University, Wake Forest University and Auburn University –just to name a few. She plans on majoring in political science or history.
“I really want a school that is tops academically,” she said. “The academic aspect is going to be just as big as the running.”
Kilburn will likely make a decision before December about where she will run in the future.
For now though, her focus is on the 3.1 miles that lay between her and an individual state title.