After only losing out once all year to another runner from Cherokee County — teammate Morgan O’Toole at the Coach Wood Invitational — it came as no surprise that Melehan is the 2012 Cherokee Tribune Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Not only did Melehan set a personal-best time of 19 minutes, 23.95 seconds at the county meet — 30 seconds ahead of the second-place runner — she also finished ninth at the Clara Bowl Invitational in September at Berry College, a meet that often features many of the top runners in the state.
She also broke the 20-minute mark in three of the five races she participated in during the season.
Melehan felt that her award was a deserved one.
“I’m really honored to be named the runner of the year because I’ve worked really hard for it,” said Melehan, who first became serious about running in the seventh grade. “It feels good to get some recognition for all the hard work that I have put in.”
Woodstock coach Kirk Scharich attributed Melehan’s impressive year to a rise in her level of confidence, something he feels came about because of her dedication to improve.
“I think, if you are training well and feeling well, when you put your foot on the starting line, you feel confident,” Scharich said. “She is someone that expects to win because she is dedicated and puts in the work.”
After completing a freshman year that saw her place inside of the top 20 at the state meet, Melehan estimated that she ran more than 500 miles during the offseason and ran at least six times a week.
Melehan attributed her increase in mileage to her competitive nature and strong will.
“One of my strongest attributes is my determination,” Melehan said. “I’m not going to do something half-way. If I see something that I want, I’m going to keep going for it.”
For the season, Melehan’s goals included not only winning a county title, but also placing in the top six in the region meet and competing at the state meet for the second year in a row.
Unfortunately, she pulled her hamstring in the week before the Region 5AAAAAA race and was unable to compete. And without Melehan’s lead, Woodstock finished just four points behind Etowah for the region’s fourth and final berth at the state championships.
“I was really upset about not being able to run, and kind of angry,” Melehan said. “I felt like I should have been helping my team out — they worked so hard for it. Missing region and state is a driving force to get back out there.”
Despite the disappointing end to her season, Melehan was still proud of her performances during the year.
“I was really happy with what I did this season. It was a really good year,” she said.
With two more years ahead for Melehan, Scharich expects her to keep improving.
“Hopefully, she can come in and win region next year,” Scharich said. “She is a very driven young lady, and I think she is only going to keep getting better.”