Maricopa marathon champion dies in tragic accident

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Maricopa resident Sally Meyerhoff dreamed of becoming one of the top runners in the world and earning a gold medal in the Olympics.

In pursuit of these dreams, she dedicated her life to her sport, spending countless hours training and competing.

Tuesday around 1:22 p.m. those dreams came to an end when the 27-year-old champion was involved in a cycling accident near the intersection of White and Parker Road and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

According to city of Maricopa spokeswoman LaTricia Woods, Meyerhoff was riding her bike southbound on White and Parker Road and failed to yield at the intersection, colliding with a truck heading east.

Woods added that the initial investigation indicates the driver of the truck was not impaired, but police would continue to investigate the incident.

Adam Zucco, Meyerhoff’s coach, said the following on behalf of Meyerhoff’s family late Tuesday night in an e-mail to the Ahwatukee Foothills paper:

“Sally’s family would like to make it known she will be tremendously missed. They love her very much and she was the best sister and daughter anyone could ask for.”

Meyerhoff earned seven state championships in high school track and field at Mountain Pointe High School. She finished 12th at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in 2001.

At Duke University, where she attended on a full athletic scholarship, she was an NCAA All-American in cross-country in 2004 and in track in 2006. She was also the Atlantic Coast Conference cross-country champion in 2004.

She made her debut in marathon running at the P.F Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in 2008, qualifying for her first Olympic trials.

Over the past several years, Meyerhoff bounced in and out of the rankings as one of the top women marathon runners in the world, but she appeared ready to cement her status as a world-class champion in the past few months.

Meyerhoff won the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on Dec. 5 in Hawaii by a full eight minutes. Meyerhoff said the event was the most “difficult” she ever competed in and it left her depleted for weeks afterward.

Despite lingering soreness, she went on in January to win her hometown race, the P.F Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. In a February interview with InMaricopa, Meyerhoff called the race her crowning achievement to date.

With the win in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon win, Meyerhoff earned a ticket to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials next January in Houston.

In the meantime she was preparing for a 15K event in Fountain Hills this weekend and also had plans to compete in the half Ironman June 26 in Lubbock, Texas, hoping that a win there would land her a spot at the Ironman Triathlon World Championship on Oct. 8, just 14 weeks before the Olympic trials.

Tempe Marcos de Niza High School track coach Anna Rodriguez, who ran on the same cross-country and track teams with Meyerhoff, said, “This is what she dreamed about. She wanted to have a family and kids. But I kept telling her, ‘You’ll have that, too.’ She was so driven. Nothing was going to get in her way.”