Oct. 12, 2004
Considering the fact Elizabeth Meaney spends much of her time performing stunts on a four-inch wide beam four feet off the ground, perhaps it should not be any surprise she makes normal day-to-day chores look easy.
Despite being hampered much of her career with several nagging injuries, Meaney, a senior gymnast at Ohio State, was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore and a first team honoree as a junior. On top of her achievements in gymnastics, she also has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors and is an OSU Scholar-Athlete.
While being a Division I student-athlete is not an easy task, Meaney can certainly make it look that way. It does not require extra effort, though, because she is naturally a balanced person.
“I just try to relax and not get all worked up or stressed out,” Meaney said. “I hate being stressed out. I just try to live day by day and not look too far ahead. I take things as they come to me.”
Among the highlights that have come to Meaney recently is a full athletic scholarship. She competed her first two years as a walkon for the Buckeyes, but impressed former OSU head coach Larry Cox, who recruited her, so much that before her junior season he announced she would be placed on scholarship for the remainder of her career at Ohio State.
“Her freshman year, I thought right away this kid is going to end up on scholarship,” Cox, who stepped down as head coach last summer, said. “Her scoring capability was 9.9 in all three of her events and she averaged 9.9 on balance beam. She ranked second on the beam in the Big Ten going into the Big Ten championships and also was ranked in the country on balance beam.”
In addition to the balance beam – her best event – Meaney is one of Ohio State’s top performers in the vault and floor exercise. She owns career best scores of 9.950 in the balance beam, vault and floor exercise, but do not expect Meaney to talk much about her athletic accomplishments. In Meaney, first-year head coach Carey Fagan, who was an assistant coach under Cox, has a quiet veteran to lead the Buckeyes in 2004-05. “Liz has always led by example and this year will be extremely important for her to continue that leadership,” Fagan said. “She will teach the younger athletes what it means to be a Buckeye. As the team captain, her role on the team is going to be extremely important in this transition year.”
Being a quiet leader is just fine with Meaney, who said she fills just one of many leadership roles on the Buckeye squad.
“I look at our whole team as being leaders,” Meaney said. “If someone isn’t doing something then someone will pick them up. We have voices on our team who do the talking, but everyone plays a very important role. It’s not like one person can lead the team to a national title. Everyone needs to work together to get that.”
According to Cox, the leadership Meaney shows in practice and in competition could take the Buckeyes a long way this season. “She competes every day in the gym,” Cox said. “She’s tuning her competitive skills in practice all the time. It’s something for some of the others to learn from. With Elizabeth, what you see is what you get.”
Unfortunately, what came along with Meaney’s consistent high scoring were consistent injuries. A broken ankle in high school has caused reoccurring problems since she arrived at Ohio State, and additional injuries to her arm have frequently limited her ability to practice.
“At the end of my freshman season I was falling apart,” Meaney said. “The season is so long and coming in as a freshman you don’t really know what to expect. The older girls were there to help us and told us it was a long season and you have to try to pace yourself. Even with them telling you that you don’t really understand until you’ve been through it.”
Meaney was able to make the adjustment to college gymnastics, and despite nagging bumps and bruises she never wanted to take a day off.
“Even with bone spurs in her ankle, she competed in every single meet and in all three of her events,” Cox said. “Several times in warmups she would sting it pretty bad. We were ready to pull her out, but what does she do? She proceeds to score 9.9 in all three events.”
That kind of dedication did not go unrewarded. At the team’s postseason banquet following her sophomore year, Meaney was called to the podium to receive three of the team’s five awards, including the most inspirational, most dedicated and coaches awards. Following her junior season when she advanced to the NCAA regional competition, Meaney again received the most dedicated award and shared the “O”chievement award.
“Liz is probably one of the toughest kids I have ever met,” Fagan said. “She has a `never say die’ attitude that translates into her workouts and she is extremely strong under pressure.”
For Meaney, blocking out the pain of an injury might have something to do with the fact that she is a psychology major.
“It’s like a different state of mind,” Meaney said. “I don’t remember thinking once about my ankle before I would mount the beam or before I’d go on floor. It never entered my mind. If you’re thinking about something other than your event there is really no point of being there because you’re not going to do what you came to do.”
That kind of mental fortitude has been with Meaney since she was very young.
“When other kids would have given up, Elizabeth always came back,” Sharon Meaney, Elizabeth’s mother, said. “She has excelled because she is so determined. Even though she had all those injures she didn’t let them slow her down. All through her life she has set goals and been extremely self-disciplined.”
When it comes to competing on the balance beam, self-discipline helped Meaney turn the event from one at which she struggled to one of her strengths.
“It’s funny because in club (gymnastics) I was not very good at beam at all – I always fell,” Meaney said. “I was never consistent in club. I don’t know what it was, but when I did hit beam in club it would be the event I would score high on and when I came here my total mental state changed. I’m a lot more confident on beam now.”
The Buckeyes rely on Meaney’s confidence on the beam to secure a high score in every meet.
“To have her on beam is important to us because she’s money in the bank,” Cox said. “We know when she’s up there we can count on her. Not only is she All-Big Ten material, she’s All-American material.”
That kind of talent and leadership will go a long way during the 2004-05 season as a squad of many new Buckeyes, led by a new head coach, look to Meaney for the consistency that has marked her entire career. There might be a few aches and pains along the way for her during her senior season, however. After all, that has been a consistent part of her success story, as well.
### Go Bucks! ###