Never have I ever imagined myself being a part of a college sport’s team. If you were to tell me about three years ago that I would be, I probably would’ve laughed and wondered what you were thinking. Me? Equipped for sports? What are you seeing that I cannot? But now, I come before you in my junior year at Eastern University, and as a third full-time track participant. I’d like to invite you to explore with me how I made it to this point. Truly, it has not been easy, but it sure is possible.
Sometime during my high school years I had this strong desire to join a track team. I never understood why I would want to willingly test my own capacity, but the idea seemed to be unshakable. I also have learned to live by this personal code: if I say I am going to do something, I must get it done somehow, someway. Over the years I grew persistent to be athletic, the only barrier that stood in my way was that my Charter school in Philly never got around to building a student track team. So as you may have guessed, I entered Eastern as an inexperienced, unrecruited athlete.
Flashback to October 8, 2014. It was my first official time joining an extracurricular student program outside of high school. It was my senior year as I prepared for graduation, and sent multiple application to various universities. After school every Tuesday I attended a martial arts youth class; one reason was so that I could stay active besides church events, and two, because I wanted to try something new. At first I was denied to join the Taekwondo program since it only accepted ages 7-14, and of course I was already an 18 year old guy. The sensei instructing the course knew me quite well, mainly by name and good report from others. He quickly came to my aid, advocating for me to train under his guidance, as long as I’d become his teaching assistant.
Month after month during intense discipline and leadership development I quickly advanced into an orange belt promotion in Taekwondo, being awarded a custom design uniform for future training of choice. I ended up being in training longer than I expected, having to unwillingly take a year off from beginning my college journey elsewhere, where I find myself today. In 2015 I was accepted and became a freshman at Eastern, and that very spring a Track and Field team was being built by Head Coach Mike Wilson.
He held the first announcement meeting for all athletes who desired to join. I walked in that room curious and hopeful at the same time. I’ll never forget the conversation with Wilson after the meeting concluded. I said, “Hello Coach, is it possible I join this Track team with no high school experience? Can you train me?” Wilson replied, “Yes we can, you don’t have to worry. This is our first year to begin building, we will be happy to have you with us.” Since that moment it has been quite an adventure. We began the team with about 24 athletes consisting of distance runners from cross-country, new incoming sprinters, and some who would overlap into multi events such as jumping, hurdles, and throws.
Being an athlete is partially about talent in what you know you can do, but most of your ability is discovered in training. My last two years have been spent learning the drills of a sprinter, obtaining the right mindset, exploring durability, pushing myself beyond limits. I can honestly say that my time spent has been well worth it, enduring minor injuries, at times despair, and sweet victory. Each passing year I have been able to see progress every moment spent on the line. Every race held the opportunity for another personal record.
What I love the most about sports is how it can develop character and faith. For about five years now I have been an ordained minister, having the chance to meet lovely people and visit beautiful places. While on my team I have met some of the funniest, determined, and hopeful friends, that have also become my family. For me whether I am in the blocks, or behind a pew, I get to witness the power of confidence, and that both natural and spiritual achievements require self-discipline.