Megan Churchill: what it took to get to the top

Photo courtesy of Flagler College Athletics.

By Hannah Duffey

With the sun peaking through the clouds at Guana State Park in Ponte Vedra Beach, Megan Churchill laces up her shoes and gets set for a run that will fully immerse herself in nature.

Running has always been a sport that grounds her and allows her to feel free, and here in the park, she is able to focus solely on each breath without any outside distractions.

“There’s something just like really nice about going for a run in the morning as the sun is rising,” she said. “It’s right by the ocean, so sometimes we go in the ocean after we run and it’s just out in the woods,” Churchill said. “ It just feels, I don’t know, really grounding somehow.” 

As much success as she has had, it is easy to think she was born a runner, but for Churchill her story is different. 

In middle school Churchill had to pick a sport, so she chose cross-country on a whim, thinking it would be the easiest team to make, not thinking it would take her as far as it has. 

Megan and her twin sister, Alyson, in middle school. Photo courtesy of Megan Churchill.

“In middle school, my mom told me that I had to do a middle school sport, and I, along with my twin sister Alison, decided that cross-country would be the easiest team to make,” She said. “So, in middle school, that’s the sport we tried out for.” 

Although Megan and her sister, Alyson, run cross-country at two different schools, they are still there to encourage one another and push each other to get better. 

“But I feel like it’s really just a good experience having a sister who runs and we can, you know, talk about running and cheer for each other and stuff,” she said. 

Little did she know that joining the cross-country team in middle school would change the trajectory of her life story. 

Coming in as a freshman, Churchill was not sure where the cross-country program would take her. She was talking to XC Coach Beil when he sat with her and her family and talked about how much potential she had. 

“I remember meeting with Coach Beil(Flagler’s head cross country and track coach) in his office before I committed here and he talked about other runners in the program who are like some of the best, and he talked about them running 173:0’s and he was like ‘one day, you know, we’ll get you there,’” she said. “I just didn’t believe that at all, so it’s pretty cool to have gotten there.” 

Running seems like an individual sport but without the encouragement from teammates on long training days when all you have is each other, raises the bar for achievement. 

Churchill, Flagler’s No. 1 runner on women’s cross country, has already had a stellar season, finishing third in the 2023 Peach Belt Conference Cross Country Championships with a time of 17:45.9 in the 5k.

Churchill played a huge role in leading her team to the 2023 NCAA Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship in Joplin, Missouri this past season.

She had the fastest time a female runner earned at nationals in Flagler College program history, earned a career-best time of 21:38.8 and finished in 100th place in a 6K race.

During her 2022-2023 season, her teammates and she broke a school record in the  DMR in indoor track, placing third, running a 12:22.86 at the Alachua County Collegiate Invitational. 

“Yeah, I don’t think we realized right away that we had. So, then afterward, just hearing that, it was like, Yeah, hey, that’s really nice,” she said.

Her success story doesn’t stop there, Churchill, had several personal bests throughout the season to clinch a PBC award at the end of the season. 

“Conference was definitely like the big thing that we’ve been working towards and it was really cool. We placed three, we swept the podium in the 5k in the 10k, which was really cool. Last year, I finished fourth in the 5k, so it was a big goal of mine to get on the podium,” Churchill said.

Reaching the top is no easy accomplishment and many feel like when they finally get there it is over, but for Churchill that is the complete opposite. 

For her, she feels like reaching the top is the only motivation to keep pushing and seeing what else she can accomplish. 

“Running is one of those things that builds on itself and the more you do it, the more it becomes something that I don’t know, it feels worth doing.”

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