Athlete Highlight

Langbehn Tackling a Lot More Than Soccer This Semester.

Copy Editor Trixie Croad

Photographer Karlee Oyama

Additional Photos courtesy of Shelly Blunk, UHH Sports Info

Meghan Langbehn runnin cross country

Meghan Langbehn has been a permanent fixture in right back for the Vulcans Womens’ Soccer Team for the past three years. Being a student athlete is already a consuming task, but for Meghan, the challenge hasn’t stopped there. This year, not only has she been playing soccer, but she also was accepted into the University’s nursing program and, just in case she didn’t have enough on her plate, decided to join the cross country team as well.

Meghan’s journey to UH Hilo and the busy life she now leads began unexpectedly when she was convinced to come to Hilo and play soccer by a childhood teammate and Vulcans’ goalkeeper, Jenna Hufford. “I wasn’t going to come to Hilo, I wasn’t even going to play soccer,” says Langbehn. “I looked into it, and I saw, okay there’s soccer, there’s nursing, and its Hawai`i, I cannot turn that down.”

The challenge really started, however, when Meghan was accepted into the nursing program this semester and wasn’t sure if she would be able to do this as well as play soccer, because of the clinical sessions she had to attend each Friday and could not miss. Unappealed by life without a team sport however, she started to think of other ways she could still compete and decided to contact cross country Coach Jaime Guerpo. Although Langbehn had had no formal cross country training, she says she has always enjoyed running in her free time, and Coach Jaime, after talking to her as well as her soccer coach, felt she had the potential to be a good competitor.

Things got a little tricky when Langbehn was then told she could make soccer and nursing work. Now she had options, and which did she choose? All of the above. This response was not out of character, says Meghan. “‘I’ve always been told by my coaches and my family that I do too much, I don’t want to miss out on anything.”

A photot of Meghan smiling on a snny day

Both coaches and the nursing department came up with compromises to allow her to do all three, she would only run a few of the races for cross country, none on the same day as soccer games, would have to miss a California trip for soccer, and was allowed to miss one clinical session for nursing. Even this compromised schedule may seem like it would stretch anyone to their limit, but Langbehn kept on stretching. In in another turn of events, the cross country team lost one girl to injury and another decided not to come back, and so the team dwindled to the minimum five runners needed to compete, including Meghan. This meant that she was needed for all six races.

Picture Meghan in Oahu, or California, running a five mile cross country race at 7a.m., complete with three miles of warmup and cool down, before coach Jaime or her mom would rush her off to play a full 90 minute soccer game for the Vulcans starting at 10a.m. or even more dramatic, would rush her to the airport in Honolulu after a morning race to play a soccer game in Hilo in the afternoon. Langbehn says she was hoping running cross country would help her soccer. “I told [Gene Okamura] he wouldn’t be able to notice that I was doing cross country… [that] I already do all these kind of workouts.” She admits however, that on days like this, her legs would feel the morning race, and Coach Gene Okamura would often need to pull her out for 10 to 20 minutes in the second half as she began to fatigue.

Langbehn has played 10 of 13 games for the Vulcans, averaging 70 minutes a game. Not quite the same as previous years where she generally played the full 90 minutes every game, but not a small feat on top of running and a demanding nursing schedule. “I think what keeps me going on those days is the adrenaline from the race, and plus I've always loved soccer, it's my passion. I’m a captain, I want to be there, so I’m always ready to go,” she says.

Coach Okamura says it only worked because of the mindset Meghan has. “Meghan is very competitive and determined … she is doing something that a very small percentage of college student athletes would even consider. It is very strenuous both mentally and physically … it says a lot of her mental/physical toughness.”

As far as her cross country performance, Coach Jaime Guerpo is more than happy and feels Meghan exceeded his expectations. With no previous running experience, he was impressed to see her coming in as second or third runner for the Vulcan team. Guerpo hopes she will come back and run next year.

“She bought something different to the table, [this year] she was new and so she just listened and did what she was told. Next year she will have some experience and she has leadership qualities that could be helpful to the new freshmen coming in … she’s my number one recruit for next year.”

All things considered, Meghan has been able to be successful in all aspects of her schedule this semester. He coaches seem happy with her performance, and she is on track to pass all of her classes without problems. There are a few things Meghan has learned she in order to make this work. “I used to not sleep very much, I’ve realised I need more sleep because my brain will function better.” Also, “taking time for myself so I don’t stress out too much, I’ve managed to only have one mental breakdown … I like going to the break wall and looking up at the stars, that’s my relaxation.”
Meghan is the first to admit that this semester has taken its toll on her. “In my free time, I’m always studying, I don’t watch netflix or anything … I fall asleep on my books probably 70 to 80 percent of the time.”

Meghan playing soccer, dribbling a ball

Although she is passing her classes just fine, Meghan explains that for her, that’s not enough. “It doesn’t really matter what you get on a test for nursing, you have to be able to execute at the time. I want to be able to be the best nurse I can be, not just pass a test.”

As for her sports, she, as well as her coaches agree that if she was able to focus on one, she would be able reach new heights. Going forward, both coaches say, however, that because of Meghan’s display of determination and discipline, they would be willing to try this again next year, so Meghan has some hard decisions to make for her senior year. Will she attempt to do it all over again, perhaps with some survival strategies under her belt? Will she choose to sit out her fourth year of soccer to pursue cross country and then come back for an extra semester to complete her senior soccer season? Or will she just go back to focusing on soccer next year?

Meghan says she’s waiting to hear about a knee injury she sustained on the last trip to California, forcing her to miss the last cross country race of the season, and she will also be discussing with her coaches, friends and family to help figure out what next year will hold for her, but it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen the last of Meghan Langbehn in Vulcan uniform, or in nursing scrubs, the determined student athlete will find a way to fit both her passions into her schedule once again.