MUNSTER | At an off-season job at Reaper's Realm haunted house in Hammond, Alex Meier had to pop out of coffins and scare patrons as freakishly as she could.
She wore costumes and makeup and played ghastly roles, such as "dead librarian." She always enjoyed terrorizing guests, especially familiar faces.
"People who knew me never recognized me," Meier said. "It was funny jumping out and scaring people. They'd get really mad and cuss a lot."
Meier doesn't work there any longer, but she can still catch people off guard with her frightening athleticism and fierce maturity.
The senior hurdler and relay runner has the area's second-best times in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdle races this season. She is also a member of the Times No. 6 Munster's 400 and 1,600 relays, both of which are in the region's top four.
Intense, buried anger and frustration are coursing through her as she traverses the oval around the football field every day. Track is the main constant in her life.
"It is a mix of emotion and talent that drives her," Munster coach Rick Sluder said. "The worse the day, the better Alex is. ... The better the competition, the better Alex is, and it all comes from the emotion she channels into track."
Following a disagreement with her single mom, Meier no longer lives at home. She stays with a family friend apart from her two sisters.
"I think she and I have been able to make track the place that almost always is 'fun' and structured for her," Sluder said. "It gives her something to look forward to and to count on."
Seasonal jobs helped Meier save money and recently buy a car, but not too long ago domestic drama often left her with few healthy escapes other than running.
"Whenever I'd get mad, I'd run," she said. "The pain of the cold and the body aches, despite all that, I'd run as fast as I can. It is a lot better than punching a wall."
With practical coping skills, Meier is in the 99th percentile of her demographic for pull-ups and sit-ups, according to a fitness chart used in her weight training class. She can do seven consecutive pull-ups, and she can do more than 60 sit-ups in a minute.
"Her work ethic is as good as anyone I have been around at this level," Sluder said. "She really is a throwback to athletes you hear about from 50 years ago. She would be in the gym or at the track at 5:30 a.m. if I asked her to be -- running extra laps, lifting, etc."
A self-proclaimed tomboy, Meier grew up beating boys in races and can take on most challengers in push-up battles, including diamond-style, where push-ups must be done with hands together in a diamond shape.
"I was always trying to be better than my guy friends," she said. "They took it. They had to."
Sluder said Meier's ability to run angry is her strong point. She can come to practice with a scowl and leave refreshed.
"If I got hurt or something, I don't know what I'd do," Meier said.
"Track is my outlet."