A false start was Provo High (UT) sophomore Meghan Hunter's introduction to championship racing a year ago at the UHSTCA Invitational Championships.
But it's something Hunter, who mistimed the gun on the 400m run, ultimately believes made her stronger.
"I think I was mostly just way too nervous for the meet," said Hunter, who will return as a championship hopeful at the Olympic Oval in Kearns on Friday and Saturday. "It was my third meet ever in high school. And I knew some people in the race. So I think I was just really nervous to race against them."
Nerves likely won't be as much of a factor this time. Because Hunter, who is currently Utah No. 1 in the 400m and No. 4 in the 200m, rebounded from the indignity and capped her outdoor season with two top five finishes in the 200m (25.80) and 400m (56.83).
Better yet, she followed at the Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and nailed a season-best PR in the 400m with a time of 55.77 seconds.
"She's definitely a better runner than she was last year," Provo head coach Miles Killian said. "She's a lot stronger, and she has experience that she didn't have a year ago."
Confidence could play a part in Hunter's return to the oval, which often yields fast times for incoming runners.
The sophomore is considered by Killian to be one of the "hardest workers" on the indoor team. During team weight lifting sessions, he said, Hunter is among the leaders, among the boys or girls, in any exercise that's performed.
"She just works harder than pretty much harder than everyone else and it shows," Killian said.
But Hunter's development has also contributed to her growth. She opened her indoor season at BYU on Jan. 14 by running a 57.94 second 400m, finishing first.
"There are a lot of things I still have to work on, like form and pacing," Hunter said. "But I think I got better at that toward the end of last season, and now I'm getting more confident and more experience."
Killian thinks Hunter can contend for a title in each race she enters on Saturday. If only, he says, because on any given day, "you never know what's going to happen."
But when it comes to Hunter, Killian also realizes there's quite a bit of talent, too.
"Knowing Meghan," he said. "She'll give us her all that meet."
Performers to watch
What: UHSTCA Invitational Championship
Where: Olympic Oval, Kearns, Utah
When: Jan. 27-28
Track: 440 meters
60m -- Boys: Dominic Bentil, Lone Peak; Girls: Brinn Jensen, Lehi
60mH -- Boys: Tanner Kutterer, Syracuse; Girls: Katrina Broadhead, Layton
200m -- Boys: Dominic Bentil, Lone Peak; Girls: Brinn Jensen, Lehi
400m -- Boys: Domininc Bentil, Lone Peak; Girls: Meghan Hunter, Provo
800m -- Boys: Dylan Tidwell, Bingham; Girls: Helena Miyazawa, Mountain View
1600m -- Boys: Casey Clinger, American Fork; Girls: McKenna Lee, Weber
3200m -- Boys: Patrick Parker, American Fork; Girls: Skype Jeppson, Pleasant Grove
4x200m -- Boys: Syracuse; Girls: Box Elder
4x400m -- Boys: Syracuse; Girls: Box Elder
4x800m -- Boys: Ogden; Girls: Maple Mountain
HJ -- Boys: Owen Mitchell, Pleasant Grove; Girls: Eden Richards, Orem
LJ -- Boys: Xakai Harry, Davis; Girls: Jentry Skidmore, Syracuse
PV -- Boys: Adam Anderson, Bingham; Girls; Brielle Carr, Herriman
Shotput -- Boys: Talin Mortensen, Salem Hills; Girls: Tori Bailey, Herriman