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Caroline Mehlhorn - Athlete of the Month

By Anna Reinalda | July 7, 2022

Montgomery High School graduating senior Caroline Mehlhorn looks to the close of her high school track and cross-country career with a bittersweet smile. “I adore my team,” she said. “That is my family. It’s going to be so hard to leave them, I don’t even want to think about it.”

Caroline Mehlhorn

Although running is a sport that’s oriented around individual performance, Mehlhorn says the camaraderie is as important as anything else. “I run in a squad of nine people,” she said. “It is kind of like a team sport, because you spend a whole hour running with your pack and just talking the whole time. And then at the meet they’re cheering for you, and are super supportive.”

Out of a wealth of proud moments in her successful high school career, Mehlhorn says her biggest triumph came during her junior year at a national cross-country invitational meet in Alabama. Beating her personal best time by almost 30 seconds, Mehlhorn ran the 5K race (3.1 miles) with a time of 17:47. “That was when I realized, and college coaches realized, that I could really carry this to the next level,” Mehlhorn said. “It changed my outlook on racing a lot, because the whole race I told myself, ‘It’s the last race of the season, it’s the only chance I’m going to get.’ “Every time I faltered a little, I would just tell myself that, and I took it with me through the next year of racing, which really helped.”

Mehlhorn has been running since she was ten years old. It started with hiking trips in national parks with her dad. Those trips taught her to love being outside in nature, she said. Although neither of her parents are runners, Mehlhorn says they are supportive of her sport.

She has committed to the University of Colorado Boulder to join their track and cross country teams. “When I got to Boulder, it was just so beautiful,” she said. “I love the mountains. We went on a run, and it was just the most picturesque place I’ve ever seen.” Aesthetics aside, Mehlhorn says she is excited to join their highly competitive program. “They’re also [one of] the best running programs right now, so I really wanted to be part of a nationally ranked team, and hopefully be nationally ranked myself one day.”

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Collegiate level track-and-field includes much longer distance events than Mehlhorn has experienced in high school. Races go all the way up to a 10k (6.2 miles), which is 25 laps around the track. College cross-country courses are about the same for women: courses range from 5K (3.1 miles) to 6K (3.7 mi). “I’m not that nervous heading into my first year because I don’t know what my capabilities will be with this new training program,” she said, optimistically. “It’s more like trying to see what I can do, and moving on from there.”

Looking back on the biggest challenges she’s faced, she said the mental battle has been her biggest struggle in competition. “I’ve hit so many walls in my training, whether it’s low self confidence, or a bunch of bad races in a row. It just really brings your spirit down.” Using her own experience of hitting those walls, Mehlhorn has become inspired to help other athletes with the mental aspect of their competitive careers, and wants to gear her studies toward becoming an athletic psychologist. As she closes the book on her high school career, Mehlhorn wants to thank Coach Tim Bartholomew for his support. “He’s never let my confidence fall.”


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