LaBrae’s Gunther hurdles her way to success

LEAVITTSBURG – Megan Gunther likes following in her father’s footsteps.

Keith was a standout basketball player for LaBrae High School and is the current boys basketball coach at Ursuline High School.

Megan’s main sport is track and field and her specialty is the hurdles.

Gunther, who will compete at Youngstown State University next season, is this week’s Tribune Chronicle Athlete of the Week.

“I think this is cool that I got athlete of the week because my dad got athlete of the week too (from a local television station),” she said. “So, I feel like I’m following in his footsteps.”

She’s carved out her own path as the school’s best hurdler – breaking the girls 100-meter hurdles school record of 14.85 set in the Division III state track and field meet in Dayton held by Laura Kreft, who finished as a runner-up in 2003.

Gunther, who hopes to qualify for her fourth straight state meet, ran 14.84 to win the Trumbull County Track and Field title in that event. Her trek to state begins Thursday at the Division II district meet at Lakeview High School.

“I was really surprised because I thought the record was way lower. I was really surprised when I broke it,” Gunther said.

She went on to win the 300 hurdles title at county.

“To win both of them in county it was pretty much my senior dream come true. I was really happy with that accomplishment,” Gunther said.

Tuesday, she won 100 and 300 hurdles, the open 100 and took second in the 200 at the All-American Conference, National Division meet in Leavittsburg.

However, breaking the school record has changed the way Gunther looks at the rest of the season.

“It definitely gives me a little more confidence,” Gunther said. “I plan on my times lowering more than 14.8.”

Her grandfather and one of her hurdle coaches, Jerry Humenik, said Gunther has been a fierce competitor since she was in the seventh grade.

“She’s got the will. She does not like to get beat by anybody,” said Humenik, who coached his son Jeff to a fifth-place finish in the Class A 300 hurdles at the 1983 state track and field meet when Jeff ran for Cardinal High School.

However, an injury to Gunther’s sacroiliac joint, which fuses the pelvis and spine and around the lower back region, slowed her down about a month ago. She was relegated to sprints and couldn’t compete in the hurdles.

“She cried a little bit,” Humenik said. “She said, ‘Papa, nobody believes my back hurts.’ I believed her because when she hurdled, instead of coming straight up and out, she would swing her leg. That’s a sign the hips are bothering you.”

Now, Gunther is back to full strength.

In addition to her grandfather, she’s trained with hurdles coach Jeff Jenkins since her sophomore year and speed coach Robert Andrews. Andrews is the John F. Kennedy track and field coach and trains area athletes with his Speed-N-Skills instruction.

Gunther has been working out with JFK hurdler Morgan Rice, who finished second to Gunther at the county meet.

“I thought it was cool we could be each other’s competition,” Gunther said. “When you have someone that’s a friend and is that close, it drives you to do better. If anyone was to come in second behind me, I’m glad it was Morgan.”

Gunther is glad she got some of her inherited athleticism from her father, but also from her mother, Jill, who played volleyball and softball.

“I didn’t get all my athleticism from my dad,” Megan said.