In February 2020 I broke both bones in my lower leg playing in a varsity high school soccer match. I went from scoring goals as the only freshman on a nationally-ranked team to not being able to get around school without someone to push my wheelchair. I was in a full-leg cast for weeks, struggled to navigate in a boot for months, and limped my way through walks, nearing tears when I could barely go a block without tiring. I wasn't sure if I could run again.
That summer, I worked tirelessly throughout physical therapy and spent hours on my local track relearning how to first walk, then jog, and, finally, run. Throughout my recovery, I realized how much I loved running. Not only did it allow me to shine in sports, running relieved my stress, kept me in shape, and made me more confident in my abilities mentally and physically. It was what made me unique.
When I was finally able to run a lap, I did not stop there. I worked my way up to running 5Ks with my dad. I trained for sprints with my mom. In the fall, I signed up to be a junior coach for Girls on the Run. I started the season excited to share my story with the girls and help them learn valuable life lessons through running just as I did. However, that first season, I learned just as much from them as they learned from me.
When we discussed our favorite moment of the day, the girls shared the creative exercise games they loved to play in school, giving me ideas to make practice more fun. When planning our community project, I discovered it’s easier than I thought to come to a group decision when everyone feels like they’re heard. Most importantly, I discovered the family-like bonds created by a positive team atmosphere.
I played soccer for a decade and had been on several different teams, but none were as close and supportive as my GOTR team. After the season ended, I took the lessons I learned from GOTR and applied them to my own life. I joined my school’s track program in the spring and gave up my spot on the varsity soccer team to focus on what I loved the most about the sport: running. I became captain of the sprints squad and used my position of leadership to cultivate a team atmosphere as supportive as the one I helped create at GOTR.
My second season with GOTR in the fall of 2021 was just positive. I still keep in touch with all of my co-coaches, and our team was featured in the local newspaper for our fun and empowering 5K (just our site again, due to COVID-19).
Today, I am still running track and working with GOTR. Two years after breaking my leg, I became one of the top high school 800m runners in the nation. I broke four school records and two meet records and am talking with several D1 track programs. GOTR was a key stride in my journey to becoming the confident, happy, and healthy person I am today. As a GOTR intern, I hope to pass the baton to the next generation of girls, helping them find their own passions and feel confident in their unique strengths.