In third grade, Megan Siebert made a promise to her coach and mentor that one day she would be a Longhorn. In return, he promised her he would do everything in his power to help get her to Austin. Ten years later, Siebert is a University of Texas cross country runner that has already contributed to the Longhorns’ early-season success.
“In 16 years of teaching, she is the one student that kept her word,” said Siebert’s former coach James Graham. “She made a promise and she kept a promise. No matter the situation she stayed on course and that speaks a lot for her character.”
Texas posted perfect scores at the first two meets — placing runners in all top five spots. Siebert, a freshman, came in fourth at the Ricardo Romo/Six Flags Texas Classic on Sept. 17 and finished second at the Johnny Morris UH Invititational on Sept. 3.
For Graham, Siebert’s success this early in her career is even more impressive considering her background.
Siebert first found a mentor in Graham when she began attending the Shelton School and Evaluation Center — a school that specializes in ‘learning differences’ — in her hometown of Dallas.
“She was very shy and had some learning differences you could say, and she was struggling to fit in,” Graham said. “In an attempt to find success with her, we adapted some of the programs in physical education and it took off. That developed into a continuous deal; there was a trust built up and a relationship that went on until she graduated.”
When she started attending Shelton and met Graham, nobody expected much from her. Graham was the exception, he had her do timed miles and jump rope competitions, during which she often beat the boys that participated.
Graham’s work with Siebert helped her develop and increased her interest in athletics.
“I had just been moved to that school and a lot of people were concerned about my abilities because I didn’t really talk,” Siebert said. “[Graham] would bring the best out in me; he brought out something I never knew I had.”
When Siebert started public school at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson she continued to train and exercise with Graham.
“He would pick me up in the mornings and help me train,” she said. “He put me in competitions and helped me through those and really encouraged me.”
In high school Siebert continued to run, in addition to playing volleyball and basketball. She was dedicated to athletics — often going above and beyond the normal training schedule.
“Whenever everyone else was dragging into school she was already in the weight room for an hour,” Graham said. “She would stay after school with me, but she never had the coaching that most kids have that go to a big school in Texas.”
Siebert’s determination and hard work, paired with her dedication to the University of Texas appealed to Longhorn head coach Steve Sisson.
“Megan made sure that I was aware of her,” Sisson said. “She is an athlete I say bleeds orange. Her desire to be a Longhorn is one of the key attributes that I look for in an athlete. I am always looking for the kind of athlete that is highly motivated to give back to the school — that is something that Megan really showed.”
Being an athlete at Texas has been dramatically different from the long days she put in with Graham.
“It has been a completely different training environment for her,” Sisson said. “She came from an environment where she had to do a lot of training by herself. It has allowed her to settle in and run.”
Sisson said the new environment and team atmosphere helped Siebert perform well at the first two meets. He said he expects her to be different from a typical freshman.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to work with her for four or five years,” Sisson said. “My guess is that she is going to continue to defy the odds. She is making an immediate impact and I think that bodes well for her.”
Siebert and Graham have continued to stay in contact throughout her time on the 40 Acres. Graham now works at a school in San Antonio and it is written into his contract that if she ever needs him, he will leave work.
“If she calls, I go,” Graham said. “That is an ongoing promise I have had since she was in third grade; I will be there without hesitation.”
Graham said that Siebert’s success in becoming a Longhorn is a testament to her dedication and hard work. As she grew up, he said, she never failed at achieving a goal. Siebert, however, credits him for helping her achieve her ultimate goal — being a Longhorn athlete.
“I have always wanted, first of all, to go to Texas,” Siebert said. “I would always say, ‘I want to go to Texas and I want to run.’ People would tell me it was impossible and coach Graham would always keep my mindset up and say I could do it.”
Initially Sisson was not too confident in Siebert’s future success as a Longhorn, but her performance thus far has changed his mind.
“She was more interested in us than we were in her, but luckily I came to my senses,” Sisson said. “I am really happy that we did pay attention to her because this cross country season she has done well.”
Siebert is just happy that she has fulfilled her dream.
“Running at UT has always been a part of what I wanted,” she said.