“I played attack and all I did was shoot. So the coach said, ‘Why don’t you let the goalie come up and play offense so he can score a goal and you replace him in the cage?’ I figured for one game, what the heck,” Mealey recalled.
A few years later, Mealey showed up at the first practice for the St. Mary’s High junior varsity lacrosse team and had the course of his career altered dramatically. The Saints did not have a single goalie trying out so head coach Don Harrison asked if any of the youngsters had ever played the position.
“Like a dummy I raised my hand,” said Mealey, honest to a fault and recalling that game in goal at the recreation level. “I had every intention of playing attack in high school, but that one moment changed those plans.”
Hall of Fame coach C. Mason “Daffy” Russell was helping out the junior varsity at the time and was asked to tutor the fledgling goalie. Russell was up in age, had hearing aids and talked loudly to his new protégé.
“I learned quickly that playing goalie at the high school level was a whole new ballgame. I had great players like Steve Voelkel, Lee Davidson and Ray Crosby shooting on me and I was scared to death,” Mealey said.
Mealey struggled during the first few practices and that is when an exasperated Russell screamed something the youngster never forgot. “Mealey, stop using your face and start using your stick,” he said.
“Daffy was a very respected coach so I figured I’d better take his advice,” Mealey said with a laugh.
Fortunately, Mealey found a veteran coach and former goalkeeper who truly did know how to teach the proper way to play the position. “Dr. Louis Ruland was my saving grace. I worked with him on weekends and he taught me all the basic fundamentals of being a goalie,” he said.
Mealey became the starting goalie for a pair of St. Mary’s squads that were ranked No. 1 in the final Baltimore Sun preseason poll, including the undefeated contingent of 1980. He was named a high school All-American as a senior in 1981. The Saints, under the direction of head coach Jim Moorhead, amassed a 35-game winning streak during Mealey’s time on varsity.
Mealey was also the starting quarterback and strong safety for the St. Mary’s football team even though he stood 5-foot-7 and weighed 140 pounds. Mealey admits a big part of his success in sports stemmed from the fact “I never realized I was small.”
Crosby, who played football and lacrosse with Mealey at St. Mary’s and with the Annapolis Elks, recalled the nickname his friend earned in football.
“We used to call him Dynamite Mealey — because every time he hit somebody he blew them up. Tim packed a lot of power into a small package,” Crosby said. “Pound-for-pound, Meals is one of the finest all-around athletes I’ve ever seen. He was tough as nails and always played great in big games.”
Joe Devlin was the head coach of varsity football and assistant coach for varsity lacrosse at St. Mary’s when Mealey was there. Looking back, Devlin saw the traits that would ultimately lead Mealey to be inducted into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.
“Tim was one of the most competitive athletes I ever coached. He wasn't the biggest guy, but his overall skills, dedication to making himself better, and toughness separated him from others,” Devlin said.
Mealey was recruited by all the perennial powers and took official visits to Cornell, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina
and Virginia. He chose Carolina, even though it meant sitting behind one of the greatest goalies of all-time for two years.
“I knew if I went to North Carolina I wasn’t going to play until I was a junior because Tommy Sears was incredible,” Mealey said of the 1982 Division I Player of the Year and 2007 inductee into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. “Instead of pouting, I studied how Sears played the position and worked really hard to make sure I was ready when my time came.”
There would be no drop-off between the pipes for the Tar Heels with Mealey earning All-American honors in 1984 (honorable mention) and 1985 (third team). The lifelong Annapolis resident led Division I with a phenomenal .696 save percentage as a junior. Mealey played during an era when college lacrosse was fast paced and high-scoring, evidenced by the fact he recorded 28 saves in four different games.
North Carolina head coach Willie Scroggs used racquetball as a training regimen for his players and especially thought it was helpful for goalkeepers. Mealey agreed the hand-eye coordination required in racquetball was applicable to the lacrosse field and attacked this new sport with his typical vengeance.
Upon graduating from North Carolina and returning to Annapolis to operate the family business, Mealey joined the Merritt Athletic Club in Annapolis and took his racquetball game to another level.
Mealey became a five-time Maryland state champion in racquetball and ranked Top 10 in the United States for his age group for many years. He competed in professional racquetball tournaments for three years, often placing and earning prize money.
“I was playing 40 weekends a year in tournaments all over the country,” he said. “Racquetball was really big in the late 1980s and I had sponsorship because of my national ranking.”
Mealey gave up racquetball and took up golf in order to spend time with his son. Competitive instinct kicked in on the links as well and he got down to a 5-handicap at one point.
Around the age of 37, Mealey got into distance running and found his first half marathon so much fun that this new pursuit became his passion. He was the overall winner of the Reno-Tahoe Half Marathon in 2007 with a tremendous time of 1 hour, 26 minutes.
Endurance sports soon became the focus for Mealey, who was waking up at 4 a.m. to go training and was running at least 50 miles and biking 100 miles per week. “I was motivated by the success I was having and thrived on the competition I was finding,” he said.
Mealey has a long list of accomplishments in marathons, duathlons and triathlons. He was a member of the United States Duathlon team that competed in the world championships in 2008 (Italy, 45-49 age group) and 2010 (Scotland, also 45-49). He was the fourth American finisher and placed 28th out of 144 competitors world-wide at the latter competition held in Edinburgh.
Mealey was the first place finisher among male masters entrants at the Miami Half Ironman in 2007 and 2008. He was the winner of the same category in the Sarasota International Classic in 2009 and 2010.
“Being able to represent the United States in international competition was a very cool experience,” he said. “Having Team USA uniforms with my name on them was very inspring while seeing my wife and son waving the American flag while I was riding by on a bike was very emotional.”
Devlin is not at all surprised by Mealey’s post-collegiate athletic success, calling his former player the “ultimate gamesman.” Crosby agreed and marvels at Mealey’s ability to perform at the highest level in such a wide range of sports.
“I think Tim is super competitive and has an intense desire to be the best at whatever he’s into at the time,” Crosby said. “He’s pretty much a magician with anything in his hand, whether a stick, a racquet or a club.”