How Two of Arkansas' Best Runners Became Life-Long Friends

Nestled just northwest of Little Rock is Russellville, home of senior Brooklyn Nicholson, a 7x All-State performer across cross country and track. About 47 miles down the road resides Meg Swindle, a senior and an All-State performer from Conway High School.

While the two live far enough apart that they do not get to see each other very often, two of Arkansas' most talented distance runners share an incredibly unique relationship that could not have happened without our beautiful sport.

How do I know about the two's special friendship? That's a whole other story, but one worth telling.

Before I ended up in Arkansas, ironically also in Conway, Arkansas, I attended college in Kennesaw State in Georgia. Over the summer of 2022, our distance team hosted the Nike North Georgia XC Camp.

Over the course of five days, our team led our groups of high school athletes through the beautiful trails of Kennesaw, Georgia. It just so happened that Brooklyn and Meg were not only attending the camp, which was more than 8 hours from Conway but were also in the group I led on easy runs.

It is pretty ironic that after this camp I ended up in Conway, Arkansas just a short six months later, but that's got nothing on the story of how Brooklyn and Meg ended up in Kennesaw, Georgia in July.

But to tell that story, you've got to start at the beginning of the pair of distance sensations running careers.

Both Brooklyn and Meg had different indoctrinations into our sport. Meg was introduced to running in 3rd grade. At school, her mom was in charge of the running club and she was "forced" to do it, Meg said. However, Meg quickly figured out it was something she loved to do and was something she could be very good at.

Brooklyn didn't start running until four years later in junior high when she realized she didn't know what sport she wanted to compete in. Growing up, she remembered watching her mom run half marathons and hearing about her grandfather running when he was younger. Like Meg, Brooklyn was inspired by her family and quickly fell in love with the sport.

The first time the two competed against one another was in 7th grade. Meg considered Brooklyn a "rival," but said the two quickly became good friends after seeing one another at so many meets.

It was a natural friendship. Each of their parents grew up together and the two had many connections beyond the track that helped blossom their friendship - but it certainly helped that the two ran similar times and they could run together from time to time.

While the commute between Russellville and Conway isn't treacherous, it isn't the easiest either. Over the years, both girls cited that it is difficult to find times both are available to get together, but the two stay in touch and find a few days a year to run and catch up.

"Brooklyn and I's friendship is so special in that we live far from each other but we grew so close because of our shared passion."

Heading into their junior year of high school, the two were determined to find a running camp to attend together. The closest camp they could find and fit what they were looking for just so happened to be in the beautiful "foothills" of Kennesaw, Georgia.

Together, the two made the 8-hour trip and attended the Nike North Georgia XC Camp, which is what granted me the opportunity to write this piece today!

Brooklyn and Meg both said they loved their time and would encourage others to "go to a camp like that." The pair met several new friends, including one the two still keep in touch with today.

Brooklyn said her favorite moments from the camp were "the little things," such as pushing herself to run more miles, creating friendships, spending time on Kennesaw's campus, and seeing which one of their friends could eat the most at dinner.

Meg said it was the best part of her summer. From learning about proper ways to train, all the different trails she got to run on, and the people she met on the runs, Meg mentioned it was "such a growing experience for me in my running career and it's something I will never forget."

And that's what makes this story so wonderful.

Our sport isn't the most flashy, it might not be what you see on SportsCenter, but there's something to be said about the community our sport manufactures. It is incredibly inviting and blossoms incredible relationships that lead to memories such as the one Brooklyn and Meg shared and that they will likely remember for the rest of their lives.

To Brooklyn, running is special to her for a lot of reasons. From pushing her limits and challenging herself to the feeling of excitement she gets at races. And while it's all special to her, nothing compares to the joy that comes from running with her teammates.

Brooklyn elaborated on this saying: "A cross country team sees you at your best and your worst, especially in those hot summer months. Although we are small, I am very close to my team of girls."

Just as I said before, this sport brings people together in a way I never seen anything else do. Brooklyn seemed to agree with this sentiment saying "I feel that it has all been much more than just getting up to run, it's about how running has created a family."

For Meg, running is special to her because it is her escape, her stress reliever, and her favorite time of the day, all in one. While Meg has faced a great deal of adversity, fighting through three stress fractures throughout her career, it has helped her realize how special and important the sport is to her.

Alike Brooklyn, Meg loves the community aspect of the sport and the happiness it brings her: "I am so grateful to have found something that makes me so happy and I'm excited to be able to continue to do it in college next year!"

The story of Brooklyn and Meg is a special story to me because it helped me identify and get a genuine understanding for the Arkansas running community.

After attending the Arkansas state meet this fall, throwing myself into the epicenter of distance running in the Natural State, I believe I have a proper grasp on the community. And that is when I realized Brooklyn and Meg's friendship perfectly encapsulated the pure good-hearted nature of the Arkansas running community.

As a result of the Arkansas running community, people like Brooklyn and Meg can create long-lasting friendships, as well as experiences and memories that stay with them forever.

As for Brooklyn and Meg, thank you for shining a light on what makes our sport as great as it is.

Next fall the two will separate even further as Brooklyn will compete for the University of Central Arkansas and Meg will compete for Ouachita Baptist. However, the two's relationship will continue to grow as strong as ever and means more to them than just a couple of miles...figuratively and literally.