Almost four years ago, I stood in front of the weight room asking one of the strongest, boldest women I know if I could spend a few weeks managing the high school track team. Little did I know, this group of runners would capture my heart, find me the greatest friends I could ask for, teach me who I am, introduce me to my ever-so-amazing boyfriend, and even give me some of my best high school memories.
While I started by managing for Track and Field, I carried over into cross country as I wanted to stick with my friends who ran in both seasons and was easily welcomed by not only the coaches, but the entire team. Unlike managers for some of the other sports, I was appreciated and loved dearly by my teammates openly and there was absolutely no question that I was whole heartedly part of the team, even if I wasn’t running. Often times, I couldn’t even make all the practices, due to my numerous jobs of working for a local construction company and being a Starbucks barista, yet I was always filled in on the latest inside jokes and happenings, which is something unique and special. I never questioned if I belonged on the team.
As manager, I was responsible for many little tasks. As we had a team of anywhere from around 50-60 kids, there was many details to keep track of. During my early seasons, I was mostly in charge of crafting notes and invitations for different team events, hanging locker posters, and being there to support everyone. As I grew more comfortable in my role, I timed for nearly every race and even worked in the chutes to make sure no runner fell or was left behind after finishing their five kilometer race. I became more and more dedicated, regardless of if I was able to be there often due to my many other involvements.
By doing these little things, I found my love of organization and efficiency. My work effort in cross country transferred to school and my employment as well, and I was able to become incredibly talented at time management. I also found my love of the sport itself, which will hopefully further me socially in my fresh start at Northern Arizona University, where I will be surrounded by a large running community (not to mention the three time NCAA Division One men’s champion team).
Cross country was also my collection of friends all throughout high school. My middle school buddies joined the team before I did and we continued to spend time together, as well as grow our inner circle. Over the years I spent time with the upper classmen and my own class, but even now as a senior, I continue to spend time with more and more people outside of the ones I have know for years. I have tightened relationships with old friends and developed new ones with previously unknown people. I am so incredibly grateful for all of them and they mean the whole world to me, regardless of how long I have known them or the times we have spent together.
As I write this, I have a difficult time explaining the true impact it had on me, simply because it was so special and life changing. The cross country team is where I spent my weekends, my homecomings, my free time. It was my source of strength, my stability throughout the ups and downs, and by far the best choice I ever made.
To the people on this team, all I can say is thank you so much for being my second family throughout the years and I love you so very much.