Valdosta Daily Times

February 8, 2013

Georgia bound: Lowndes’ Charbeneau signs with UGA cross country, track and field

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In the midst of all the college football signings Wednesday, the young, blonde-haired student sat on the bleachers of the Lowndes High Gymnasium, surrounded by her family and friends, waiting for her moment.

Megan Charbeneau, the school’s most-dominant runner in recent history, was waiting for her time to sign her national letter of intent to the University of Georgia.

“Right now, I’m still in shock,” Charbeneau said. “To go into a great program like that, I know I can just get better and better. I know going up there will be really good.”

Once in Athens and on campus at UGA, Charbeneau will compete in cross country and track and field, specializing in long-distance running.

“When I get to Georgia, I’m going to run cross country and in track, I am probably going to focus on long-distance running, like the 5K,” Charbeneau said.

Her signing so important on Wednesday, head football coach — and athletic director — Randy McPherson put a stop to the football signings, allowing Charbeneau time to take her picture with family and the plethora of friends that came to support her moment. Charbeneau couldn’t stop smiling, even when she placed her red UGA hat onto her head.

“When I first moved her, I was really nervous,” Charbeneau said, “but this school was so welcoming and they were all so nice. I was just glad that I was able to fit right in.”

After moving down from south New Jersey to Lowndes County two years ago, after her father took a position with Wild Adventures, Charbeneau joined the cross country and track team at Lowndes High.

The move and her success was widely accepted by coach Antonio Wesley.

“She is a team player,” Wesley said. “Whatever we needed her to do, she did it.”

Immediately, her impact was felt.

Her junior year, Charbeneau won the Region 1-5A cross country championship. She followed it up a year later by winning six events her senior year, including the Region 1-6A championship in Tifton.

In state, Charbeneau finished 10th.

“I just think in South Georgia, it isn’t as hard as South Jersey,” Charbeneau said. “Once you get up to North Georgia, it gets kind of harder.”

In the 2012 track season, Charbeneau finished second in the 3200-meter run with a time of 11:43.22. Now as the new track season approaches, Wesley said Charbeneau is prepared for another big year.

“We are in the second week of practice and she already looks good,”     Wesley said. “She is healthy and ready to go.”

But what’s the key to running long distances? Charbeneau says it is all mental.

“I think it is more mental than physical,” Charbeneau said. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want to. And when you are running, you really do have to have a good mind.”

Charbeneau chose the University of Georgia after visiting the school multiple times, even taking in a football game at UGA’s Sanford Stadium, which she described as “a very different experience” that she “loved every second of.”

A future business management or marketing major, Charbeneau said Georgia stood out to her because of its dedication to helping student-athletes succeed in athletics and in the classroom. The nice campus didn’t hurt, either.

“I didn’t know much about (UGA) before moving down her from Jersey,” Charbeneau said. “I like how the campus is spread out, but you can walk it and then there are buses you can jump on. I love the downtown. And in athletics, you have the Rankin Center and how they help you with all your classes.”

As she continues to improve on her running, Charbeneau will have to continue to deal with humidity, something she didn’t have to deal with during her time in New Jersey.

“The humidity was hard to get used to,” she said. “I’m good now, but it was hard to get used to.”