Neuqua Valley Invitational, 4.20.2018

Post date: Apr 21, 2018 7:16:40 PM

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

The woman behind those words weighed just 4.5 pounds at birth. She was born prematurely, the 20th of 22 children born by her father (over two marriages). She grew up in the segregated South, and as a child, she battled double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio. Because of the latter, she lost the use of her left leg and was fitted with metal leg braces when she was only 6. Once a week, her mother drove her 90 miles round-trip to a hospital for physical therapy.

The leg braces came off when she was 9. A few years later, she began playing basketball. In high school, she started running track. And in the 1960 Rome Olympics, she won gold medals in 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and the 4x100-meter relay. She was the first American woman to win three gold medals at single Olympics. Her name was Wilma Rudolph.

The ability to overcome adversity is one of the best lessons a person can learn in life, and track and field often offers plenty of opportunities for adversity. Injuries happen for a variety of reasons, many times outside of a person’s control. But, like Rudolph said, “If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

At the Neuqua Valley Invitational, two Minooka seniors came away with significant marks that defined their careers in different ways. Both are long-time veterans of the sport. Both have battled injuries in their careers. Both set personal records Friday night.

Emily Ellis has had a storied career as a distance runner at MCHS. This is her fourth year on the track team. She has run in the IHSA Cross Country State Finals three times, including in 2015 when Minooka won the state championship. The one year she didn’t was her junior year when she battle an IT band injury during most of the season. In track during her sophomore year, she was out a good part of the season with a stress fracture. She is a tireless worker, who has had her work interrupted several times because of injury.

At Neuqua Valley on Friday, she entered the 3200-meter run like she has many times before. Breaking the 12-minute mark was a goal. In her very first 3200-meter run as a freshman, Ellis ran 13:16 indoors at North Central College. Last year her best time was 12:12. Ten days before running at Neuqua, she ran 12:01.

In a tough field at Neuqua she finished sixth, scoring a point for the team. But the historic number was 11:53.73, her official time, and the first time she ran under 12 minutes.

Another senior, Madison Thompson, has also battled adversity throughout her career. She had a solid (but for her disappointing) sophomore year. She worked hard that offseason and had a tremendous year as a junior, leading relays, running her way to 8th all-time on the Minooka 200-meter dash leaderboard, and earning the Most Improved Award.

This year, Thompson was expecting to continue along those lines. Unfortunately, a nagging hamstring injury has kept her out of the track lineup, but not the field. Thompson has reinvented herself as a thrower. It allows her to keep competing, to contribute to the team, and it doesn’t bother her hamstring.

Thompson is a focused student of the sport — she will make a great coach — and she has come a long way in a short time as a thrower. At Neuqua Valley she went all the way to 31 feet, 3 inches, her personal best in the shot put.

Every meet is an opportunity, and Thompson and Ellis weren’t the only ones making the most of their opportunities at Neuqua Valley.

As a team, Minooka’s varsity finished 2nd in the tough 8-team field. The JV squad did one better in winning.

Numerous personal records by athletes at both levels were set, the most eye-catching being Kylie Wissel’s 46.78-second 300-meter hurdle victory, which was faster than the state-qualifying standard.

In addition, the varsity 4x100-meter relay of Cierra Bachmann, Lauren Larsen, Eryn Renison, and Sydney Forrest became ran the 3rd fastest Minooka team in history.

Athletes aren’t defined by injuries. They’re defined by what they do afterward. They are lots of paths to being “a champion someday.”

Go Minooka!

– Coach Thomas