Alexa Stern is a senior with Saline High School in Saline, Michigan. She's heading into her final season with the program, which finished 10th at the MHSAA Division I LP Championships a year ago. She reflected on her experience in cross country and the meaning of teamwork in a 'Love Letter To Running' for MileSplit.
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First off, thank you. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for teaching me the importance of determination and hard work.
But most of all, thank you for leading me to who would become my best friends: My teammates.
During my time at Saline High School, you have taught me many lessons about the idea of team, and what that word really means. I've learned that it means being there for your teammates, regardless of performance, time, or place. It means running around the course, cheering until every last girl has finished racing, because each one of your teammates is just as important as the last.
It means being happy for those around you, even if you aren't completely satisfied with yourself.
"Countless times, you've knocked me down. And yet, every time my teammates are there to pick up the pieces. It's what a team does."
You have taught me that it doesn't matter if I'm number one or 100.
Teammates don't care if you're fast or slow or somewhere in between. Teammates care if you're working hard and happy and having fun.
Running, you have also tested my limits. Countless times, you've knocked me down. And yet, every time my teammates have been there to pick up the pieces. It's what a team does. Through injuries, sickness, bad days, they understand and support you.
As I stood on the tarp at our first race of 2018 and looked out across a sea of blue shirts and purple ribbons, I couldn't help but smile. There is something so magical about being part of this team.
Nothing compares to bus rides after meets. The wind whipping through your hair, through open windows, screaming along to songs with your teammates, you can't pay for an experience like that.
"I don't know what I would do without the people you've introduced me to."
And when coach gave us grueling Thursday workouts during the summer, I looked forward to spending time with my friends, suffering together, forming a bond that was unlike any other.
I don't know what I would do without the people you've introduced me to.
Freshman year, you introduced me to one of the best coaches I've ever had. Although he's now retired, Coach Smith still cares greatly about all of us.
Running, you showed me there is so much more to a team than just your teammates.
Perhaps the most important aspect of all is great coaches, the ones who believe in you even when you don't believe in yourself. They're the ones who push you beyond your limits, the ones who spend countless hours at practices and meets because they are devoted to you, to the team.
I have been very fortunate to work with phenomenal coaches during my time at Saline.
In fact, they are the reason I grew to appreciate you, running.
Thank you for that.