You Have What it Takes…

Following our long -awaited Cross Country Banquet covering the past two seasons – a teammate came up to me and told me there were sorry and apologized because they knew they could have done better. That never left me, and it took me a few days, but I formulated a a small portion (it is difficult to put it all in words after a year that often exceeds words) back to this athlete- (Remaining anonymous- and in actuality – this applies to everyone that made up quite an amazing 2020 WHS Cross Country team).

Dear ___________________

Despite not being able to have a Cross Country Banquet, I would have to say it was quite an amazing opportunity see so many talented runners in one room after a year that put each one of us on a rollercoaster. But one thing was left unsaid.

You came up to me and said to me, “Mr. Brake, I am sorry I let you down.”

_________ , you NEVER let me down. Not once. Not ever. You showed up. You showed up when you struggled with your academics, when it was sometimes painful for you to run, when you had an amusment park of roller coasters of your own to conquer. And get this,

You did. You pushed yourself. You said you didn’t push yourself. You said you could have done better.

But you showed up. You showed up knowing you might be able to do better, not sure you were able to do better, but you showed up.

The one single thing I learned, 31 years after high school, yeah, THIRTY ONE. The BEST relationships, the best memories, the BEST learning I have ever done after over 16 years post high SCHOOL, an onslaught of undergraduate and graduate classes, the best moments of my life continue to be with students, athletes, and friends like YOU.

I understand and feel the disappointment you feel when you get a chance to truly realize the season is over and in hindsight, you know what they say about hindsight. (I hope?! 🙂 ) But YOU are not hindsight.

Think about the amazing season we had, and you were a part of it- we had a princess, twins, a pandemic, ladies that were pushed to pace boys, boys trying to pace some of the ladies (true) and cross training/sport athletes, and a TEAM. WE had a TEAM because of all the aforementioned working for themselves AND together, and YOU, were a part of that team.

What made me think of what you said that night over and over after our long-deserved banquet?- approaching people and telling them that they should consider cross country. You know what the first thing they say to me is? “What makes you think I can run?”

I will share with you one of the biggest truths/secrets I uncovered since I jumped into cross country.

Running is a small part of what cross country is, and from the outside, that IS a secret because many think that makes 100% of what cross country is.

Wrong. This is the truth, the heart, the ability to put your good days, your bad days, having an outlet to channel 100 emotions and being able to do it among the outdoors, traveling, being able to control your breathing as your brain races through these emotions and experiences, and being able to do this in different spots over 3.1 miles, and yet still being TOGETHER as a team – despite not seeing each other for parts of the course – that is what makes Cross Country uniqiue.

You could have never run more than 50 feet and be the best cross country team athlete if you bring your heart and willingness to do your best, support others, and willing to set aside your pride, and give a little of yourself to others as well as to yourself. You could be a finisher of 17:00 after 3.1 miles or a finisher of 55.00 after 3.1 and STILL BE THE BEST part of a XC Team.

It is how you carry yourself, what you bring to the TEAM, and the heart you bring to XC; on paper, there is no way to measure THAT – be it time, rate per mile, or personal record.

I hate to compare a sport to the best moments of my life, so I won’t. I look past the sport and see the individuals who bring and bare themselves for the sake of being better, be it 30 seconds better or maintaining a better rhythm of breathing or enduring longer.

This life that challenges us every step, if not this past year, has been a constant foot race to see how you will endure as an individual. After seeing three years of growth and some exceptional athletes come and go, I have had the best moments of my life by seeing the sacrifices individuals make for the sake of a team as a whole. We were lucky enough to have a returning senior athlete gives us a glimpse of what lies in the future.

That warms my heart more than anyone will ever be able to, or ever had. You need to take that and ask yourself, what now?

You can fall into that category of people that say “I can’t” or make excuses before you even give yourself a chance to consider, “Maybe?…”, and in doing so, you only think about yourself and not the others that you could support. That is easy to do when others are not around. However, holding on to how you have helped others through this season when together, and doing so when they are not around, now THAT is an amazing trait…you have the chance to take the times you have and work towards supporting others that might now be in view right now. Will you?

.You never let me down. Ever. You showed up,

You gave of yourself for the sake of others on a daily basis. So, you didn’t do as good as you think you could? That is an amazing learning lesson in itself, the realization – many do not get that far – and you have. So do exactly as I asked – take what you know, and make something even more of it, and simply…

Show up. I am proud of you – never forget that 🙂 That is the best kept secret of XC.

About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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