Forest Area's Lange Goes Extra Record Mile in Extraordinary Recovery

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 19, 2023

When Meagan Lange makes her bid to return to the MHSAA Track & Field Finals on Saturday at her team’s Regional meet, few of her opponents will know her story.

Northern Lower PeninsulaHer teammates likely won’t mention much, if anything, either.

But the Ricketts family no doubt will join hers and several more with ties to the Fife Lake Forest Area community who are aware of the details and cheering her on as she finishes up a successful – if not extraordinary – high school career.

If Lange’s story does not ring familiar, her track success may not seem unusual. But many would say it is unbelievable and offer other superlatives for what she’s accomplished.

Lange, a senior, will compete at Marion — which will host a tough Lower Peninsula Division 4 Regional — in an attempt to get back to the Finals in the 400 and 800 runs and 800 relay. She did all of the above her sophomore and junior years after missing out on her freshman season in 2020, which was canceled due to the pandemic.

Just weeks after finishing her great sophomore year, a car crash June 18, 2021, nearly ended her career and life.

“If anybody knew what she went through, they would be amazed at what she can do,” said Ron Stremlow, Forest Area’s coach. “It is amazing she can compete.

“Lucky to be alive, and she has come back to do what she has done.”

The accident occurred just a mile from her home. 

Lange rounds a curve during a relay race. “The superintendent at my school, Josh Rothwell, was called by the police that day to tell him to get grief counselors set up at the school and ready because ‘this girl’ was probably going to die,” Lange recalls being told. “The wrecker driver estimated I flipped about three to five times.

“I went out the passenger side windshield because I didn't have my seatbelt on,” she went on. “They say that my not having my seatbelt on may have actually saved my life.”

Lange, perhaps the most decorated track athlete in Forest Area’s history, knew all along she’d be back competing. Her comeback started with intense physical therapy even as her teammates may not have been aware of her recovery efforts during the school’s summer break.

“I've actually never really had my teammates ask me about (the accident and recovery),” Lange said. “I don't know if it's because they don't know how serious it actually was or if they are just glad I'm still here.

“It was kind of hard for me because people thought I was fine when summer was over, and I started going back to school because on the outside I looked fine other than a scar just above my right eyebrow that had 26 stitches in it at one point,” she continued. “But on the inside was the real damage, but no one could see that so no one really knew my condition except the people who were there with me.”

Lange credits the support of her father Jon, mother Kallie, and sister Lauren for getting through the summer of 2021 and returning to cross country, basketball and track her junior year. She also singles out her strong religious beliefs.

Meagan now holds Forest Area records in the 400, 800 and 1,600 runs, as part of the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 relays, and also for the 5K cross country race. Yet, she does not consider herself a long-distance runner. And, until just recently, she didn’t really understand why others might think her story was special.

But just a few weeks ago, in breaking that 1,600 record, she accomplished something especially memorable.

Weather conditions have severely hampered Lange and the Warriors’ opportunities to compete outdoors this spring; Lange and her teammates have only five meets under their belts. But the weather did permit them to make the short trip April 14 to Buckley, where she broke that school record in the 1,600 that previously belonged to 1987 graduate Dawn Ricketts.

Lange has rarely run the 1,600; in fact, she’s run it only once this spring – that day. Meanwhile, the Ricketts family is quite familiar with Lange’s story – and Dawn Ricketts was at the meet in Buckley with her brother Jim Ricketts. Dawn Ricketts reportedly raised her hands in jubilation after the official time was announced. 

Lange, far right, stands with Dawn Ricketts and coach Ron Stremlow.Lange’s father, who first coached the record-setter in second grade and “never stopped,” according to Meagan, oversaw her training for the 1,600 as she sought to add a record in that race to her growing list of accomplishments.

“A month before track practice started my dad started training me,” she said. “I put more work in before the season than I ever have.”

Lange credits her father for pushing her in the right direction and giving her tools along the way.

She just as quickly notes her mom played a crucial role in her recovery, from staying at her side in the hospital to driving to doctor and therapy appointments. “And, anything else I needed,” Lange said.  

Older sister Lauren was also a key member of the recovery team.

“She would come to the hospital with worksheets she had made, usually fill-in-the-blank type things, and make me do them.,” Lange said of her sister. “We would always make fun of my handwriting after because I could barely write, and it was almost illegible.

“The year prior to my accident she got diagnosed with cancer, and I felt she could relate to my situation more,” Meagan continued. “I would tell her things that I didn't tell anyone else because I thought she was the only one who would understand.”

Stremlow, who has coached track at Forest since 1984 with just a few seasons off, was Ricketts’ coach when she set the 1,600 record. Ricketts’ time was 5:58.5. Lange beat the time by 21 hundredths of a second, running a 5:58.29.

Stremlow is proud of both record setters and is amazed his current top miler is potentially headed back to the Finals again. If she qualifies Saturday, as Stremlow anticipates, Lange would advance to the LPD4 Finals on June 3 at Hudsonville.

“Jessica is pretty determined,” Stremlow said. “After the accident, she said she would make it back to the Finals, and she did!”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Forest Area’s Meagan Lange shows some of the many medals she’s received for her running achievements. (Middle) Lange rounds a curve during a relay race. (Below) Lange, far right, stands with Dawn Ricketts and coach Ron Stremlow. (Photos by Lauren Lange/Perfectly Imperfect.)

Multi-Sprint Champ Racing to Finish Huron Career Ahead of the Rest Again

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

May 25, 2023

NEW BOSTON – If there was one thing Elizabeth Anderson took pride in elementary school, it was simply showing that she could outrun everyone in sight. 

Greater DetroitIn fact, Anderson has an explanation for all the success she had in those playground races.

“Dominance when you are in elementary school,” Anderson quipped. “I don’t think I ever had a nickname. I just think everyone knew I was fast.”

Years later, pretty much everyone who follows track & field in the state of Michigan can attest to that. 

A senior for New Boston Huron, Anderson has been faster than most other competitors in the state during her three-year high school career (with her freshman season in 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). 

Last year, Anderson won titles at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in the 200-meter (25.07) and 400-meter (56.28) dashes, and was runner-up in the 100-meter dash (12.23). 

Often, top sprinters focus on one or two of those three races. But Anderson is certainly a different breed of sprinter because she does all three.

In fact, she holds school records in all three of those events, and if all that weren’t enough, Anderson is a part of all three sprint relay teams. 

“It is hard to give her events off,” said New Boston Huron head girls track coach Danielle Lobato.

Despite the different styles the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes present, Anderson said there usually isn’t much adjusting when she goes from one of those races to another.

Anderson, middle, outpaces the field to also win the 200.The strategy is simply, “Let’s beat the other girls to the finish line.”

“I don’t really go into each race changing up how I would run,” she said. 

While enjoying and succeeding in all three races, Anderson said she actually does have a favorite among them.

“I would say the 400 is probably my favorite,” she said. “Even though it hurts, it’s satisfying to see how much you can get your time down in the 400 compared to any other race.”

Anderson said she started running track in sixth grade, but really got serious about it during the summer after her sophomore season, when she was invited to run for a local club. 

Eventually, that led to her competing over the winter in indoor events.

She lived and breathed track so much that last fall, she decided to not run cross country so she could focus on a weightlifting regimen aimed at developing more leg strength.

“Once I started doing summer track, I realized I wanted to be doing this all the time,” she said. 

Lobato said oftentimes in practice, Anderson is a de facto coach, given there is no better person she can think of for the younger runners on the team to learn from.

“I can’t always demonstrate these things I’m trying to teach,” she said. “You get to see it in real life (from Anderson), not in a YouTube video.”

After winning the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes at her Regional meet last week, Anderson has her sights set on achieving the same trifecta of titles at next Saturday’s Finals in Grand Rapids. 

Anderson has signed to run track at Michigan State, but has been plenty motivated to keep producing this spring in her final high school season.

“I’m really looking to defend my titles,” she said. “That is what is really motivating me to keep going. I want to keep in shape for the college season. I don’t want to lose any of the progress I have made. Ultimately, I just love running track.”

And since elementary school, Anderson has loved — and succeeded in — outrunning everyone else to the finish line. 

“We knew we were getting something special,” Lobato said of when Anderson arrived in high school. “But you never expect this. All that she has accomplished is amazing.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) New Boston Huron's Elizabeth Anderson clears the finish line during last season's LPD2 400 race. (Middle) Anderson, middle, outpaces the field to also win the 200. (Click for more from