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THE PREP CAREER OF MEREDITH STREET

Inspired by family, coaches and teammates, Street bids adieu to Osage with zero regrets

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It's Memorial Day, and the countdown to Meredith Street packing up her belongings for a dorm room at the University of Northern Iowa is at its peak.

Rather than rushing to fill boxes with clothes, utensils and snacks, she's as calm as possible. A little basketball with her siblings in the driveway at the Street household in Osage makes time slow down for a moment.

That is on the short list of things Street does at a patient pace.

Throughout her athletic career, the last four years at Osage High School, it has been go to this, go to that and never slow down. Whether it is volleyball, basketball or track, she's all-in.

"This community and the town has been a great place to grow up, and I'm really fortunate to grow up with such supportive family, friends, coaches and teachers," Street said. "It (will) always hold a special place in my heart."

Street will go down as one of the best multi-sport athletes Osage had come through its halls. She was a critical piece of the 2020 state championship team in volleyball and snared eight career state track and field medals.

Oh, and she was an important piece to the Green Devils' run to the regional final on the basketball court as a junior and maintained a grade point average of 4.0.

Not a bad resume.

"She's been driven in everything she's done," said Adam Brinkman, Osage head girls' track and field coach. "She was going to work hard no matter what it took."

Close-knit family

Street is the oldest of Aaron and Anne Street's four children. The youngest, Molly, has a close relationship with her older sister. Same goes for brothers Quinn and Cooper.

All of them looked up to Meredith growing up and still do.

"We saw her as the best, and we thought she walked on water from the moment we were born," Quinn said.

Meredith was an only child for about four years before Quinn came along. She had to figure out pretty quickly how to be a good role model for her siblings.

That wasn't too hard.

"There eyes were always watching me and showing them the way to go upon things," Meredith said. "Knowing I had to be a role model for them kept me going."

It isn't just Aaron and Anne who have been by Meredith's side for a lot of activities; her grandparents live right down the street.

It has made the family bond a lot closer.

"Sometimes I don't realize how much they do for me," Meredith said.

The Streets' would all be together when Meredith would be in club volleyball tournaments. You name the location and that family would be entrenched for a whole day.

It created a lot of fun memories, some that they still talk and reminisce about.

"It was a lot of fun quality family time early on," Aaron said. "Our goal was her to be able to excel."

"It has been a really cool thing over the years," Anne added.

It makes her departure for the Cedar Falls campus that more bittersweet. Even though she'll be just an hour away, her presence in the house will be gone.

It gets Molly pretty emotional.

"It is hard to think she'll be moving away really soon," she said. "I'm so close with her."

Staying ahead

The value of club sports remains high. For some, it is a gateway to playing a sport at the next level. For others, it means getting better at a specialized sport year-round.

Meredith wanted to play volleyball at the next level.

She remembers as a kid watching games at Osage and seeing the high level of play. She wanted to be a part of that. In fifth grade she joined the CIA volleyball club program based in Waterloo.

"I've made some friendships that I'll have forever through club sports," Meredith said. "That, along with developing all these skills, is really cool."

The price of committing to a club sport was not a problem for Aaron and Anne.

"If you don't do the club scene, you're not going to get noticed," Anne said. "We were OK with her cutting back on a few sports to give her some opportunities in other sports."

Chris and Kalani Mahi are the two primary coaches for CIA. They both have made stops at Power-5 and mid-major programs. Most recently, Kalani was an assistant coach for Northern Iowa.

Neither of them are strangers to what club sports mean to an athlete. Still, they understand the need for the multi-sport athletes.

"Majority of our kids in our club come from small towns, and we just know that the success of their town relies on multi-sport athletes," Kalani said.

Meredith knew what playing against some of the best players in the country would do for her talent and competitiveness. And for her recruitment to be a D-I athlete.

The pressures of impressing college scouts never fazed Meredith.

"I wouldn't have ever considered it to be a job," Meredith said. "It was mostly love."

Volleyball was the bulk of her club schedule, but not all of it.

During Meredith's junior year, she started training with Ben Tilus in Ankeny at the XLR8 Performance Lab. She was pursuing an individual state title in any of three sprinting events her senior year.

Tilus quickly realized her physical talents.

"(She had) the highest girls' vertical, in the mid-20 inches," he said. "We had other top athletes, best sprinters in the state, they couldn't match her power and explosion. I could tell she could be pretty good."

Tilus remembers how after prelims at state last season, Meredith wanted a refresher on coming out of the starting blocks. So they went to a track with blocks, her spikes and went to work.

He was quick to point out club coaches can do that on a routine basis with their athletes.

"She needed a little refinement," Tilus said. "We would just want to make sure we could tidy up those pieces. I don't know if we were there longer than 20 minutes. That's the value of surrounding yourselves with things beyond your school."

It was a hectic spring and summer, but Meredith knew it would prepare her for when it mattered most.

"That wanting to be great and wanting to do the work for it was good," she said.

Consistent impact

When Bryan Tabbert was an assistant coach for Osage volleyball, he watched an eighth-grade Meredith Street practice. Andi Olson, the former longtime head coach of the program, notified Tabbert that she was one year away from high school.

And he couldn't wait.

"She would go 100% every play," Tabbert said. "Her drive and intensity as a junior high student impressed immediately."

Meredith was walking into a program that went to the state tournament for the first time in more than a decade in 2016 and was one set away from the finals in 2017.

She started 28 games her freshman year and accumulated 83 kills. There was an uptick in production the next year as she recorded 175 kills and finished with a hitting efficiency of .244.

"I wasn't a standout by any means," Meredith said. "It taught me a lot of things and got me ready for the next year and get my all-around position."

Claudia Aschenbrenner was just a freshman and she saw what type of impact Meredith was having and it drove her to play better.

"She always was the person who was saying 'Don't cheat yourself, always work hard,'" Aschenbrenner said. "Her having that little bit of leadership, even in the weight room she's just great."

The fall of 2020, there was a different atmosphere at practice. Street, Aschenbrenner, Kaebre Sullivan, Jaden Francis, Paige Kisley, Dani Johnson and Ellie Bobinet were all back.

If there was ever a time for the Green Devils to win a state title, it was that 2020 team. They knew it, too.

"That whole year was dedicated to winning," Meredith said.

"It would have definitely been a letdown if we hadn't won that year," Tabbert added.

It made practices more intense. Aschenbrenner still has memories of the attitude in the gym through the early part of August before the season opener against Newman Catholic.

"Walking into that, it is an amazing experience," she said. "I'm not going to make excuses for myself."

Meredith was dealing with a nagging injury and missed both games Osage lost, once in four sets to Dike-New Hartford and a 2-0 sweep versus Waverly-Shell Rock.

Those losses defined a season, but none bigger than the Class 3A semifinal at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.

 Davenport Assumption, was 23-3 that year with an all-state attacker in Ava Schubert. It finished second in the Mississippi Athletic Conference and played a majority 5A/4A schedule.

The Knights won a thrilling first set 26-24.

"I don't think we knew how close it was going to be," Meredith said. "It was definitely like a slap in the face."

"All of us didn't think it would be easy," Aschenbrenner added.

It was a back-and-forth battle in the second set. Eventually, the Green Devils squared the match up at a set each.

They won the next two and finally, after three years of getting to the semis, they broke through the barrier.

"It was so rewarding," Meredith said.

Against Mount Vernon in the championship, Osage blitzed the Mustangs 25-6 in the first set. Meredith claims it was the best set the Green Devils had all season long.

"After that first set, I didn't have a doubt in my mind," she said. "We couldn't believe it."

Meredith kept looking at the scoreboard, seeing the finish line getting closer and closer. It was pure jubilation at match point, a feeling she never experienced before.

And it was not going away anytime soon.

"It didn't feel real," Meredith said. "We deserved it."

The entire family was cheering on in the Osage section of the crowd.

"It was pretty cool to see her win a state championship finally," Cooper said.

And Tabbert, in his third full year as head coach, was a state champion.

"We (completed) the mission," he said.

Meredith led Osage in kills this fall with 292. Her height is 5 feet, 5 inches. No, that's not a typo.

Yes, that's a lot of kills. She made it a mission to be powerful yet accurate at the same time.

She thrived.

"I knew I had it in me," Meredith said. "The biggest thing that helped me was beach volleyball. You hit the corners, sharp cross, deep cross. Having those shots from beach and transitioning it to my indoor game was super beneficial."

From a non-state tournament match, Meredith's favorite remains the regional final against Sumner-Fredericksburg this season. The Green Devils rallied down 2-0 to triumph in five sets and return to the state tournament.

They swept second-seeded Wilton in the quarters to get back to the semifinals.

"We knew how stacked 2A was going to be," Meredith said. "Felt awesome to kind of prove the rankings wrong."

Her prep career ended without a second-straight state trophy as Osage fell to Western Christian in the semis, but she was named an IGCA 2A all-state attacker.

"We've had a ton of great classes come through, but Meredith is right up there," Tabbert said. "She'll be remembered as one of the best volleyball players to come through Osage." 

Sacrifices, big goals

Chad Erickson and the Streets are neighbors. They have grown a close bond over the years.

There is a mutual respect between Meredith and Erickson. Even more so despite Meredith deciding not to play basketball in 2020 and 2022 to instead focus on track and field.

"I've always known what her goals are," said Erickson, Osage's head girls' basketball coach. "I would have loved to have her because she's a great kid, but I understood why she didn't play."

It turned out to bite Meredith in the rear end her sophomore year. The Green Devils made it to the state basketball championship game in 2A, and the track season was canceled due to COVID-19.

"I definitely do think it would have been fun, but I think I made the right choice," Meredith said.

She decided to play her junior year and was a rotation piece in the Green Devils run to the 3A regional final. She was their second-leading scorer off the bench most games and had more than 40 assists and steals.

She also played as a freshman.

"I did have a lot of fun," Meredith said.

"She had a much bigger impact," Erickson added.

Even though Osage had low numbers this winter, Meredith concentrated on track and field.

And Erickson was in full support.

"It was an ongoing conversation," he said. "She thought, to give her the best chance to go win a state title, she would have to slight basketball in order to make that happen."

Sprinting sensation

As a little kid, Meredith would train for fitness tests in PE class. Other kids may have dreaded it, but it invigorated Meredith.

Why?

"I wanted so badly to be the best that I could be," she said. "I could just tell that sports and competing was a super important part of my life."

Running has always been something that came naturally. In middle school she was fast. In high school she remained fast. That isn't always the case.

More times than not, high school girls get slower as they grow up. Only the elite runners maintain strong diets and nutrition plus have good sleeping habits and don't slow down on training.

Consider Meredith elite.

"Anything to keep yourself in good shape, toned and all of that was important," she said. "That was a major plus and is what helped me get faster throughout the years." 

"We never said, 'Hey you can't eat that ice cream,'" Anne added. "In fact, it was probably the opposite."

Meredith was Osage's top sprinter as a freshman. After her sophomore season was wiped out, she proved she didn't miss a beat the spring of 2021. She qualified for the Drake Relays and in four events at the state meet.

A hamstring injury kept her out of Drake. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

"My physical therapist had told me that you can try running, but I don't want to promise it won't get worse," Meredith said. "I ultimately wanted to place at state."

It turned out to be the right call. She finished runner-up in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and garnered medals in the 400 and sprint medley relays.

She didn't capture a state title this spring, but she achieved the next best thing with two lifetime bests in the 100 (12.59) and 200 (25.70). The latter broke a school record that had stood for 21 years.

Brinkman was entrusted to be the Green Devils new head coach this season. Having someone like Meredith still having a significant presence on the team made it easier.

"It was definitely very helpful," Brinkman said. "Her ability to take on that leadership role has been huge."

Meredith didn't have the best qualifying meet and was stuck in lane eight for the 100 prelims. That didn't make her think she wasn't going to the finals.

"It doesn't matter what lane you're in," she said. "You're all running straight."

Her track career ended with two handfuls of state hardware. It's been nearly a month since she ran for the last time. It didn't sink in right after, but it has sunk in now.

"Track is such a special sport, and knowing I won't do it again competitively is kind of hard to swallow," she said.

The next chapter

Throughout her recruitment, it was pretty evident Meredith was going to end up as a Division I volleyball player. The only question was, what college?

Her three finalists were Northern Iowa, Iowa State and South Dakota. For awhile, Anne thought her daughter was destined for Ames.

Yet Northern Iowa's campus and proximity to home were too much to ignore, and Meredith verbally committed to the Panthers her junior year for volleyball.

"I know girls that play at CIA, so I talked to them and they love the atmosphere, the style," Meredith said. "It was good to hear that."

She'll be reunited with Johnson as a teammate and will be surrounded by a bunch of athletes from Iowa. The chance to be coached by Bobbi Petersen is an added bonus.

To Meredith, it just felt right. She'll major in pre-med and biology.

"You don't hear anything bad about the program," she said.

She'll mainly be in the back row, but that is something she is ready for. Chris and Kalani have seen Meredith give all her effort diving for balls and being scrappy.

That won't change at the collegiate level.

"She's literally the kid that's going to run through the wall for you, and that's the kid that prospers at UNI," Kalani said. "I feel she's going to really good things there."

And Tabbert has a good feeling that Meredith will fit in just fine at UNI.

"Meredith is going to be well prepared," he said.

Meredith has done more than her fair share of good deeds for Osage. Brinkman remembers her helping middle school kids work on block starts this spring.

During a beach tournament in the summer, Chris recalls Meredith hitting a girl in the face, breaking the girl's sunglasses. Meredith gave the girl her sunglasses.

"That spoke immediately to the character," Chris said. "Not only is she a phenomenal athlete, but she is an even better person. For us, that's what has been so special." 

As a teammate, Aschenbrenner can't say enough good things about Meredith.

"She's the best person. She would never do anything to hurt anyone," Aschenbrenner said.

Whether it was in the classroom, in life, on the court or on the track, Meredith was fully invested.

She hopes the legacy she leaves behind makes everyone proud.

"I feel good about my high school career," Meredith said. "I've pushed myself as hard as I can, and I think it paid off in the end. I think that I always went upon my day or the game how I want people to see me (and) treat me.

"The attitude I've had over the years is an important thing to leave behind."

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at zachary.martin@globegazette.com and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.

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