Heading into this weekend’s state track and field championships, Provo High has the running events covered — by one family. Kate and Meghan Hunter are a two-girl track team.
In the 4A classification, Meghan ranks third in the 100-meter dash (12.41), first in the 200-meter dash (24.88) and first in the 400-meter dash (with a state-record 54.35); Kate ranks first in the 800 (a state-record 2:09.55), first in the 1,600 (4:55.95) and second in the 3,200 (10:58.82). That’s nearly every individual event on the track — the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200.
“We just need a hurdler now,” says the girls’ father, Iain.
With Ally Gomm ranked first in the 300 hurdles, the Bulldogs have that role filled, too, making them contenders for a state championship with just three girls.
There’s just one complication: Meghan has back and hamstring injuries. She pulled a hamstring six weeks ago in the Arcadia Classic in California and has run only one race since (a win in the 400). She has entered all three individual sprint races at the state meet, but it will be a day-of-the-race decision as to whether she will contest the 100, which puts the most stress on hamstrings.
“I’m not expecting to be 100 percent by state,” says Meghan. “The coaches want me to decide, but I want to do whatever’s best for the team.” She has done most of her training this season on a stationary bike or elliptical trainer after school.
Through some oddity of genetics, the Hunter family managed to produce both a sprinter and a distance runner. Iain was an 800-meter runner for BYU in the mid-'90s with a best time of 1:49. The 800 is the bridge between the sprints and distance running, which might best explain how he produced both a state record holder in the 400 and a state record holder in the 800.
Iain continued to run after college and moved up in distance as he aged. At 38, he won the St. George Marathon. Now 46, he trains regularly with Jared Ward, the sixth-place finisher in last year’s Olympic Marathon. Ward was 10th in last month’s Boston Marathon and Hunter was 133rd out of 30,000 entries.
In his day job, Iain is a professor of exercise science at BYU. He teaches the biomechanics of sports and does considerable research into the biomechanics of distance running as it relates to performance and injury. He does side work for USA Track & Field, conducting research at national and international meets and at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
He says he studies such things as body position, forces from the ground, how a runner is applying the force, the angle of the knee and ankle and so forth, if you follow. Hunter has analyzed his daughters’ running mechanics in his lab. Kate’s running style is economical and efficient; Meghan, only a sophomore, is a work in progress.
The girls didn’t begin formally racing or training until they reached high school, but as Provo coach Miles Killian notes, “They’ve been around track their whole lives.” For years they have attended track meets and road races with their dad, who also volunteers as a timer at BYU meets.
“We grew up around it and had fun with it,” says Kate.
As the girls participated in some low-key youth competitions, their father says, “I could see there was some talent there and realized Kate was a distance runner and Meghan was a sprinter. It’s been great for me during those long, all-day track meets because every hour one of them is running.”
For the most part, Hunter has turned his daughters’ training over to Killian and his staff. “They do like to consult me, but I’m trying to stay out of it,” he says. “But when they ask questions I’m happy to give my thoughts.”
At the state meet, Kate, who has signed a letter of intent with BYU, will compete in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and then run another 800-meter leg on the medley relay. Meghan will likely run the 200 and 400 and a couple of relays, which means the added stress of racing in both trials and finals Friday and Saturday.
“It’s going to take a small miracle to have her healthy enough for the finals after the trials,” says her father.
Both Meghan and Kate improved dramatically this season, with Meghan cutting about 1½ seconds off her 400 best and Kate cutting four seconds off her 800 best.
“I was really surprised,” says Kate. “My goal was to get under 2:10. I’ll try to push (the 800) hard at state but I will have already raced two races. I’m going to focus on winning.”
The only regret they have at this point is that Meghan's injury may not allow her to contest the 100-meter dash.
“It would have been fun,” says Kate.