David Emuze is a senior at Southeast High School in Springfield, Illinois. A University of Illinois signee, he owns personal bests of 23 feet, 1 inch in the long jump, 6-5 in the high jump, and 42-6.75 in the triple jump. In this Dear Running (And Jumping) essay, he recounts the days after learning of major postponements, and then looks toward the future, for days when he'll have the chance to prove himself at the next level.
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"I write this essay to tell my story and to motivate others, to encourage those who are struggling to practice hope through times of uncertainty, and to hold on to that for as long as this lasts."
By David Emuze - Southeast High School
Dear Running (And Jumping),
I remember March 11th like it was yesterday. I couldn't get to sleep. My adrenaline was pumping too hard. I was disappointed, mad. All I could think about was how by that time the next day, I should have been in New York City, taking in the sights and sounds with Coach Hood. I was ready to compete at my first national indoor championships-- it was a goal I'd been trying to accomplish for four consecutive years.
I never got that opportunity.
I had seen reports about the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the country, but I just never expected it to personally affect me. I thought sports were immune. Cancel the meet? I was heartbroken.
I couldn't even bring myself to go to school the next day, because I didn't know what to feel. To be able go to the New Balance Nationals Indoor was a dream come true. I had qualified four years in a row, and this was the closest I got to going.
Then, things started to happen. I began to see local indoor meet cancellations on social media, then major national cancellations and postponements, like the NBA and NCAA spring sports.
What was happening?
It was like a bad dream. That Friday, many of my teammates were wondering if we'd even have practice and then our coach gathered us and told us to warm up and do drills like normal. Later, he came in and sat us down and began to speak.
It's going to be OK.
Here's what we need to do.
But before he even finished, I saw our assistant coach check his phone. That was the moment our Governor announced that Illinois schools were to suspended through March 30th.
At first, everyone was elated -- as if it was an early spring break. But I knew in that moment what it meant. No track. No sports. I was distraught, I was hurt and I had so many questions. Nobody had answers to them.
That was one of the hardest weeks of my life. It only got harder after that.
Why are things going this way?
I wanted to really prove myself as a senior. I had so many goals lined up. I was determined to go out my senior year with an unforgettable season. I'd been working out and studying the sport more than ever to set myself up. In the blink of an eye it was all gone.
I didn't know what to do or what to think. And to be honest, I wasn't myself for a while after. I would just sleep my days away. It wasn't easy to explain, and maybe I'm not too great at that anyways. But after being surrounded by family during the quarantine, I began to feel better. I was able to smile more and actually get out of bed.
My family lifted my spirits first, and through prayer I really did start to feel like myself again.
Conversations with my coaches really started to help, too. They reminded me that there are bigger things to come. I'm truly blessed to have such a strong relationship with my head coach (Coach Hood) as well as my future coach at the University of Illinois (Coach Cohen). I don't think they realize what their words do for me sometimes. They really lifted me and helped me get back to myself.
So (Running and Jumping), I write this essay with two major key points.
Running track means the world to me and it has changed my life drastically. You know the saying, 'You don't know what you have until it's gone?' I didn't realize how true that was until all of this happened. And I haven't been the same David since that Friday, March 13, when I warmed up with my team for the last time.
I know I have other priorities like religion, family, and education, but in a sense, track is my life, too. I've always valued and appreciated the sport, but it wasn't until a time like this that I really sat down and took the time to manage those emotions. It's not just some sport or hobby to me.
The other point is that I've learned not to take things for granted. Who would've known that I wouldn't have the chance to return to O'Brien Stadium to redeem myself at state? Or that the last time I'd compete in a high school meet would be in the first week of March?
The moments you wish you could get back? Sluggish in practice. Complained about workouts. Little things.
I'd do anything to be in those moments again rather than the ones we are in now.
But I know there's also a bright side to all of this.
In September, I verbally committed to run track at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then made things official in November. I know my track story isn't over. It will continue.
I've started to take every last emotion and have used it as fuel, as focus, as drive. I have the same burning ambition to get up there in the fall and do all the things I wanted to do this spring. It's a new beginning, and an opportunity to manifest all of my dreams into a reality.
I write this essay to tell my story and to motivate others, to encourage those who are struggling to practice hope through times of uncertainty, and to hold on to that for as long as this lasts.
This pandemic may shake some things up, but it won't last forever.
Springfield Southeast, '20
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