Maryland track and field sprinter Lisa Meneau prepared for her 300-meter race at the Spire Invitational on Feb. 10 the same way she always does. She visualized a powerful start, a consistent pace and an emphatic finish.
When she lined up on the blocks that day in Geneva, Ohio, though, one aspect of her race wasn't normal. She was the only one competing.
A mix-up in the entries pushed her alone to a second heat, so Meneau raced against time. She finished second in the event's overall standings, but perhaps more impressive was her triumph over the clock.
The senior set the first of her two school records during the competition, her last before the Big Ten Indoor Championships this weekend.
"I wanted to run as hard as I possibly could," Meneau said. "I'll be in the books for hopefully a long time."
Meneau and coach Andrew Valmon estimate she might have run even faster had she faced opponents to fuel her competitiveness and maintain a faster clip. But it didn't matter when she crossed the line in 37.89 seconds, shaving .69 off a mark she set at the Terrapin Invitational in January.
"Honestly, it's rare," Valmon said at practice this week, pausing to reflect on the circumstances of Meneau's milestone. "Usually our records that we've seen this year, our school records, the kids have run against people that are fast, and it's been a fast heat.
"But I think she set some sights on some records and proved that she was going to win at all costs."
She ran the 60-meter hurdles the next day, battling a rival from Penn State. Meneau could sense the intensity — and the Nittany Lions coach's glare — in warm-ups, but she focused on a few sprints and hurdles, again visualizing her performance.
"I was in the moment just trying to run as fast as I could," Meneau said of her approach at the gun. "Just putting everything my coaches had taught me over the years into one race."
When she finished first and saw her 8.36-second record-breaking time, her eyes widened.
Thea LaFond, a former Maryland standout sprinter who competed for Dominica in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, had touted Maryland's fastest time — 8.38 seconds — in the event since 2015.
Meneau lived with LaFond when she was a freshman, bonding over their Caribbean heritage as "island neighbors" given the proximity between Dominica and Meneau's native Martinique.
LaFond often texts Meneau with encouragement for beating her time before and after meets, so the senior was pleased to surpass it by .02.
"She's always going for the PR," said Thaila Cooper, who runs on the Terps' top 4×400-relay unit with Meneau. "We all knew she was going to run fast, but when she did it, even she was surprised."
"Honestly," Meneau admitted, "I did not think I was going to run that fast."
Still, she had one race left.
After setting two school records with the conference championships looming, Valmon approached her with the option of treating the 4×400 as practice to cap the meet.
"She looked at me like, 'No, no, you can't go out and just get a workout in. If I'm going to run, I'm going to run,'" Valmon said of Meneau's reaction before leading off Maryland's relay win. "I'm trying to get her to think about it and relax, and she said, 'I only have one speed, which is all-out.'"
The response reflects Meneau's senior-year approach. She told the coaching staff before the season to give her "no options" for an easy workload, and she isn't letting up entering the Big Ten Indoor Championships — also in Geneva, Ohio — this weekend.
To prepare for the 60-meter hurdles and 4×400 relay, she's sharpening her technique and relying on visualization. The NCAA-sanctioned events don't offer 300-meter races.
She's also emphasizing healthy eating — fish is her favorite lean protein, and she loves stir-fried and roasted vegetables — and aims to sleep about 10 hours a night.
That way, she'll return to the track where she etched spots in Maryland's records in peak form, ready to challenge new opponents and the same clock.
"We've taken away the 'You have to run this time' and just said, 'Just go beat people,'" Valmon said. "She likes that. She's kind of that feisty personality, so we've just been playing to her personality, and it's worked."