BASKING RIDGE, NJ — When Meaghan McEnroe recently signed her letter of intent to continue running track at Middlebury College, it was the culmination of a challenging athletic journey for the Ridge High School Class of 2020 graduate.
McEnroe, who was the class president at Ridge, will focus on Environmental Studies and pre-law at Middlebury, and she will also attempt to keep building on her already impressive athletic resume as a hurdler.
McEnroe, whose twin sister, Caroline, was her teammate on both the track and girls soccer teams at Ridge, has personal best times of 1:05.53 in the 400-meter hurdles (when she finished third at the Somerset County Championships) and 15.73 in the 100mH (in the State Sectionals, where she placed fourth). She also finished second in the county in the 100mH, and, as part of a relay team, first at the Summit Relays, Skyland Conference Relays and Randolph Relays.
These times were all the more remarkable because of the adversity that McEnroe--along with her sister--had to go through as a sophomore. In a pre-season soccer scrimmage at Scotch Plains in 2017, Meaghan suffered two major injuries on the same play. A month later, Caroline went down with a similar injury. Both sisters endured surgery and rehab throughout the autumn and winter of their sophomore year.
Meaghan tore ligaments and cartilage in her knee and, while breaking her fall, came down awkwardly on her wrist and fractured that. She actually walked off the field right after the injury occurred.
"I had started in the Scotch Plains scrimmage on August 24th in center back position. It was around 25 minutes in when I was chasing a girl down the line that had just beaten our left defender, when we reached the goal line she turned to cut, so I followed and that's when I tore it. I lost stability and when she knocked me over I fell on my wrist. So that day I tore my ACL, tore my meniscus, sprained my MCL, and broke my wrist. My adrenaline was high, so I just walked off the field. It did not really feel like I was hurt until like 30 min later. My dad drove me straight to the doctor at halftime. He played football at Boston College and has torn all the ligaments in his leg multiple times there and knew something was wrong. I was in excruciating pain by the time I got there and they could not tell what was wrong with my leg because I needed an MRI. At that point I said my wrist is kind of bothering me, and they told me my wrist was broken and I was just like 'no way, I just landed on it wrong.'
"My sister’s tear was much more painful in the Bridgewater game on September 26th. She had possession of the ball and then 5 seconds later when she was not even in the play, a girl came up behind her and kicked her leg, tearing her ACL and meniscus. It was a dirty and unnecessary move. I was absolutely heartbroken, because now I had to watch my best friend go through the same thing I did, and it only gets worse. Looking back on it having each other to go through it together and having that support system definitely made it easier and brought us closer together. We don’t really talk about all that time we spent at physical therapy together because it was just very hard to go through. Caroline is an amazing athlete and I wish she could have gotten more time to compete, she plays with a drive, passion, and intensity I have seen no one else come close to."
Meaghan's knee surgery had taken place just six days before Caroline went down with her ACL tear.
"I tore my ACL on August 24th that year and had surgery on September 20th and I put all my effort into getting back and ready for the track season," Meaghan said. "I would spend hours every day after school doing whatever I could do to get better whether that be walking all day or doing PT exercises for hours. The track season started five months after my surgery and my orthopedic doctor cleared me to run during the season but I could not participate in my main events, hurdles. He told me to prepare myself to be more of a 'bench player', but I continued working to get into the varsity relays my sophomore year and was able to compete at state sectionals in the 400m and 200m events. During the season it definitely was not back to normal. I dealt with a lot of pain while running that affected me when I would just be walking in school, I did not have full strength back.
"Between September and February I went to a lot of physical therapy, then from March to May I competed in the track season. Once that ended, I went to return to play strength classes with my sister to prepare for the soccer season. It took a year to return to fully playing soccer, so junior year fall I played with a brace, which was insanely annoying and a constant reminder that my whole athletic career could be taken away from me again. There were definitely scary moments that year when I cut wrong and had to go back to the orthopedic surgeon to see if I tore it again. In the spring when I finally got the chance to hurdle again it was painful because my left leg (the one I tore) is my lead leg which when you are hurdling that is the one you land on. I think I came back stronger than I ever have. Tearing my ACL made me come out a stronger athlete, I realized how much I am capable of which gave me the confidence I needed while competing."
During her time away from competing, Meaghan occupied her time by becoming more involved in issues at school.
"I joined the student government my sophomore year because of my ACL tear," McEnroe said. "My mom suggested it because I would have more time on my hands without athletics. I loved being a class senator my sophomore and junior year, and that’s why I went for class president senior year, because I wanted to make more of an impact."
While Meaghan competed as a hurdler, Caroline was a discus thrower on the track team. Caroline excelled on the soccer field for a Ridge team that reached the Somerset County Tournament championship game last fall.
"She definitely could have played soccer in college," Meaghan said of her sister, "but she never went to any showcase tournaments because she wants to go pre-med and that takes up a lot of time, and she also has always loved Boston College, and they have an amazing soccer program (one where current Ridge girls soccer coach Katie Donahue played), so it was out of reach for her. The time for recruitment is also during sophomore year when she was out of commission, and even though she was back junior year, she was not nearly at the same level she got back to her senior year. She is going to play club soccer while she’s at Boston College."
After overcoming so much adversity already, Meaghan McEnroe was all set for a big senior track season when world events intervened and the pandemic forced all schools to shut down and spring sports seasons to be canceled.
"I was extremely hopeful for this season," Meaghan said. "I felt stronger than ever, my knee finally felt at 100 percent, and I was ready to take on the challenge, so when I heard that the season was canceled I honestly didn’t even know what to do; I was speechless. I think that all the seniors have been looking forward to the final seasons of our high school careers since we got here, and to have that ripped away is devastating. A lot of people did not get closure for the sports they’ve been playing since they were 5.
"The thing pushing me through it is that I know I’m going to have an amazing four years to compete at Middlebury and I could not be happier or more excited about it."