Whether it be in 4-H contests with her dog, runs with her dad, or on the cross country course and track, Megan Grady is more often than not competing.
The 14-year-old Amboy High School freshman has quickly become of the top runners in the area. Competition has honed her.
She and her family's miniature pinscher and Boston terrier mix, a shelter dog named Piper, won the title of reserve champion in obedience in 4-H.
Grady also runs regularly with her dad Jim.
"I've been running since I was like 6," Grady said. "My dad's a runner, and he really pushes me, and I can beat him finally."
Dad's not the only one Grady's beating. She started her high school career with a runner-up performance at the Rockridge Invitational. After that, she's been sixth at the Oregon Open, won a triangular at Hall, took fifth at the Princeton Invitational, was runner-up at the Rochelle European Style Invitational and placed eighth at the 38-team Bureau Valley Invitational.
Her fastest 3 miles came at Princeton, when she finished in 19 minutes, 30 seconds.
"I've never run cross country, and I love it," Grady said. "At the beginning, I thought I'll just try to get at least 30th, then I came out on top, and I'm like, 'Whoa. At the Hall meet, the rest of the runners were like 400 behind me. I was all alone. That was pretty awesome."
Amboy coach Bob Halberg thinks Grady can be one of the best runners he's ever had by the time she's done, but he does have a problem with her.
"The only problem thus far, and I have this problem with freshmen often times, is they think they have to run hard every day," Halberg said. "It's going to take some time for them to understand that you run hard when the coach asks you to run hard, and you run easy when he asks you to run easy, and there's a reason for it.
"It's a fantastic problem to have. I wish I had it with everybody, but you want to be competitive on the right days."
The well-rounded Grady is also a member of the student council, takes part in school musicals and is a member of the Future Farmers of America.
She has a twin sister Hannah. They are not identical in any way.
"We're really different," Grady said. "She plays golf, and I run cross country. She runs shorts distances, and I run long distances."
Halberg compares Grady's running style to one of the most accomplished runners ever out of the state of Illinois.
"She's got a beautiful tempo. I'd compare it to Craig Virgin," Halberg said.
Virgin won five state championships, three in track at two in cross country, at Lebanon High School before starring at the University of Illinois, where he was a national cross country champion. He went on to become a three-time Olympic qualifier in 1976, 1980 and 1984.
"He always looked like both of his feet were on the ground at the same time, almost like a racewalker" Halberg said of Virgin. "That's kind of the way Megan runs, but that's OK. It worked for Craig Virgin. She looks different than everybody else, but it's a good different."
Grady has a mind of her own, and Halberg wouldn't have it any other way.
"Today, she got a little gnarly with me," Halberg said after Saturday's Bureau Valley Invitational. "She was running, and I got after her a little bit. When she got past me I could see her shaking her head no, and that's OK. I like that. I was like that as a runner."
(Grady's season results)
• 2nd at Rockridge Invitational
• 6th at Oregon Open
• 1st at Hall triangular
• 5th at Princeton Invitational
• 2nd at Rochelle European Style Invitational
• 8th at Bureau Valley Invitational