I decided to join my high school’s indoor track team during my freshman year. All of my friends were already on the team and I wanted to keep myself in shape for the soccer season. What I never expected to happen was an eight-year career with highs, lows, and everything in between. The beginning of my track career was pretty uneventful. I was 5 foot 7, 135 pounds on a good day, and wore Rec Specs in order to see the hurdles before leaping over them in one of the most unathletic displays possible. At that point in time, college track was the furthest thing from my mind. But as I got older, faster, and stronger, competing at the next level became more of a possibility. I was uncertain I had what it took to compete in college, but my high school coach’s enthusiasm and passion for seeing his athletes succeed gave me the confidence to take my career to the next level. During the winter of my senior year, I got an email from the coaching staff at UChicago asking about my college plans. After a few emails back and forth, I decided to visit the school. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew I was in the right place. What I didn’t know at the time was how much being a member of the UChicago track and field team would change my life.
As soon as my class got to campus, the upperclassmen welcomed us with open arms. I learned early on this wasn’t the kind of team that trained together during the week and went their separate ways afterwards. We ate at the dining hall after practice, had team-building activities throughout the year, and even found time to explore the city on the weekends. It was clear the track team was more than a group of individuals with similar goals—we were a family. Having that mindset turned track, a pretty individualized sport, into a team sport. Competitions became less about trying to get personal accomplishments and more about doing everything you could to help the team walk away with a title. The family mentality made it easier to come train for three hours a day even when I had several P-sets and a midterm coming up. It was as if track practice became a retreat from academics, allowing for me to take a much needed break from school work and have fun with my family.
Being a member of the track team gave me friends that became more like family members. These were the people that would pick me up if I had a rough week of classes or a rough meet. These were the people that would sit in the Reg after practice until we were kicked out of the bookstacks at 1 a.m. They would also be the ones that would get a Zipcar with me and drive to Pilsen at midnight to get late-night tacos. I never anticipated getting a second family when I enrolled at UChicago, but I will be forever grateful that I did. But, that’s also what made this past winter even harder.
I was in the Reg preparing for finals when I got the notification. All NCAA winter championships and the spring season would be cancelled effective immediately. I didn’t know what to think at first. I always pictured ending my career in May, handing off the baton in the 4x400-meter relay one final time. While contemplating what happens next, the phrase “run each race like it’s your last” popped into my head. It’s a phrase I’ve heard throughout my track career. However, I never truly understood what it meant until that moment in the Reg. I never imagined my career ending unexpectedly, but I found comfort in the fact that I always tried to give everything I had each time I stepped on the track. But most importantly, I found comfort that although my track career was over, the relationships I formed with my teammates would be everlasting. Despite the fact that we will all be in different places after graduation, the bond that we created throughout our time at UChicago won’t be lost. I might have not gotten the storybook ending to my career, but that doesn’t change what I gained the past four years. The decision to run track will forever be the greatest decision of my life. Although we never got that final “team on three, family on six,” no matter where we are post-COVID-19, we will always be a family.