For most athletes, qualifying for a national championship is the biggest goal, and for Maureen and Meg McGaha that accomplishment was a double-dip of excitement as the twins both competed at the 2016 NAIA Cross Country National Championships held in Elsah, IL. They became the third set of twins from Cumberlands to achieve this milestone since 1997.
The twins become the first set of Patriots runners to individual qualify for nationals since 2005, when Kelly and Shelly Schnee advanced to nationals.
“It was an amazing feeling to being able to compete at nationals with both my sister as well as Madison Peace,” said Maureen.
Coming out of high school, the twins decided that they wanted to go to the same school and ended up joining the Patriots in the fall of 2013.
“Meg really liked the atmosphere here and being able to run and I knew that we didn’t want to separate because of how close we were,” said Maureen, who is majoring in Exercise and Sports Science.
Meg, who is majoring in Elementary Education with emphasize on Special Education, began her collegiate career by qualifying and competing at NAIA Cross Country Nationals in both 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Meg suffered a dislocated kneecap, which forced her to redshirt the 2015 season.
Maureen has ran well for the Patriots in her career, earning MSC Second Team All-Conference honors during both her sophomore and junior seasons. In 2014, she finished tenth at the conference championships, but missed qualifying for nationals by one spot.
After missing all of last season, Meg entered this season enthusiastic to get back into running and being able to train with the team. The team began training in August and opened their season September 2 at Berea.
“Once we got to the starting line at Berea and did our handshake, I knew I was ready to run and have a great season,” said Meg.
Throughout the season, Meg and Maureen along with Madison Peace were consistently the Patriots’ top three finishers. At the Queen Royals Invite, Meg ran a new career best of 18:47.4, while Maureen posted a season-best time of 19:22.
Heading into the conference meet, the Patriots were looking strong trying to get as many individuals to nationals. Meg crossed the line in eighth-place with a time of 19:15.8, followed right behind by Maureen who finished ninth with a time of 19:35.0, earning the final individual qualifying spot. Both of the twins also earned Mid-South Conference Second Team recognition for their performance.
“After I crossed the finish line, I looked back to see Maureen finish. I knew that we both qualified for nationals,” said Meg. “It was the best feeling and all I could do was hug her.”
“It was amazing!” said Maureen. “I had no clue I was going to make it and once I crossed the finished line, everyone kept telling me I did it.”
At nationals, Meg crossed the line in 19:15.17 to finish in 163rd place, her best finish at nationals.
“This has been my favorite season of running,” said Meg. “After overcoming the injury, I knew that I put in the work and the results showed it.”
Maureen ran 19:48.93 and finished 238th out of 334 runner field. Maureen had a little adversity on the course as she ran over half the race with one shoe and finished carrying both shoes.
“Of course something like this would happen to me,” said Maureen, who was laughing as she retold the story. “Looking back, it was a memory I won’t forget.”
“Meg and Maureen have had an amazing year,” said head coach Randy Greer. “It has really been a joy to work with the twins this year and I could not be prouder of not only the results of their season but also the work they put in to achieving those results.”
The twins will now set their sights on trying to qualify for both indoor and outdoor track nationals which will begin Friday, January 13, when they compete at the UK Invitational. Maureen is looking to qualify in 5,000 for indoor and both the 10,000 and half marathon in outdoor, while Meg is focused on the 1,500 and 5,000.
“I am really excited about what we can do in track season. I look to see both of them qualify for their first indoor and/or outdoor national championship meet this spring,” said Greer.
The other twins that have qualified for nationals in the same year were Kelly and Shelly Schnee, who did it three times from 2003-2005, and Adam and Aaron Schaffner, who did it in 1997 and 1998.
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Sports Information Director