There are so many things in my life that I think of as important, but the one thing that I think represents

one of the largest parts of my life is my high school cross country uniform. The uniform is made up of a singlet (tank top) and shorts. The singlet is mostly orange on the front with the word "SCORPIONS" across the middle; because orange and black are our school colors, and scorpions are the mascot. The back of the singlet has a crazy design, kind of like stripes, that are orange and black as well. The shorts are mainly black with some orange highlights and white outlines. There is a Nike swoosh on the singlet and the shorts since Nike produced the uniform. My freshman and sophomore year of high school we had different uniforms. They were extremely uncomfortable and old-looking, but when we got these my junior year, they turned some heads for more than one reason. As a freshman I went into high school and the sport of cross country with a lot of pressure because my parents were the coaches of the team I was going to be running for and I had been running since I was young. Everyone knew who I was and was waiting for me to show up into the high school running world. I had more pressure on me than anyone else, but thankfully it does not affect me very much so it was not as big of a deal as we had thought it could have possibly been. As it turns out, I did have a really great season that I am very proud of. I was the best freshman in the county and I was still continuing to get better; but then as track season started I immediately got hurt. I dealt with knee problems throughout my freshman and sophomore year which was really hard for me because of the passion I have for this sport. The summer before junior year I was getting ready for the upcoming cross country season though, and I felt good. When I put on that uniform, I took off. I went to finish third in the county and second in the state, then was a two-time county champion in indoor and outdoor

track; along with many other accomplishments. Finally, I was moving towards the potential that we knew I had always had as a runner and I was thrilled. Senior year was even better, leaving me a county and regional champion and state runner-up in cross country. Then again, there were many more accomplishments in indoor track. My team was unbelievable as well, and even without one of our best girls, we finished second in the county my senior year in cross country. The amount of dedication that I saw in my teammates made me want to try even harder and it got me through the end of the season. Running has been my passion for as long as I can remember. Everything about it intrigues me. The feeling I get when I put on that uniform and spikes as I approach the starting line is indescribable. I have a desire to be the best that I can be; it's a constant want of mine and I know that I have so much more potential to fulfill in these upcoming years. The beginning of my running career began a long, long time ago. My parents both ran for their high schools, and then they proceeded to compete in college which is how they met and fell in love. They are two of the most dedicated runners I have ever seen in my life, and I remember watching that from when I was young. When I was about three years old I noticed that my father would come home from work every day and go out for a run. Never did he just come home and relax. I thought about this for a while and it really interested me, so one day I asked if I could go on a run with him. My parents had been waiting for this day, though they thought I would be a bit older, they were ecstatic that I wanted to take part in this sport that they have always loved so much. Those first steps I took with my dad, I fell in love with the sport and I have never looked back. As the days went on I continued to run occasionally around the block with my dad just for fun. Then, when I turned five years old, my friend that lived across the street was joining a

youth running program called the Howard County Junior Striders. She was two years older than me so I really looked up to her and I begged my parents to let me join the team with her. I was still really young though and they did not want to see anything happen to me like they have with other girls who start too young and end up hating the sport. I was so adamant and so interested in the sport though, so they let me, especially since my friend would be with me too. The years went by and they kept me at a minimal training schedule to be careful since they wanted me to continue running in the future. I remember that I always wanted to do more, but our rule was that I could only run the number of miles as the grade I was in. This was a smart rule that they came up with, but it did upset me sometimes. When I was in second grade, my friend who was even younger than I was ran a 5K, which is 3.1 miles. It was a really fun race and I wanted to run it so badly, but I was not allowed. At the time I was extremely angry with my parents, but now I thank them for keeping me in check because I am still running healthy and well. Throughout Junior Striders I really did love running, but the three practices a week got old after a while. Finally, it was time for my high school career to begin. Those next four years changed my life. Having the team by my side at practice, races, hang outs, and everything else we did together was something I had never even imagined. They were my family. We were always together that it got to the point where people at our school ended up referring to us as a cult. Every day I looked forward to going to practice because of them. On race day I knew that it was no longer only about me, but I had to race for them now. The Oakland Mills team made me more selfless in everything that I do. I had to focus on the team succeeding as a whole, and not just myself anymore. There was one specific time that they really came through for me and I realized how much of an impact this team had on my life. My sophomore year we went to the Doc Jones

Invitational and this course would have been perfect for me. There were a lot of trails and hills which that is what I am best at, so I was very excited to see how I would do here. The gun went off and I took off, but after about a mile into the race I was dead. My knees were hurting a little bit and I just felt horrible in every way you could imagine. I was not where I should have been in the race and it messed with my head. All of this really upset me, so I considered dropping out. As these thoughts were running through my head I looked at my dad as I passed him and thought about how disappointed he would be if I were to drop out. Then I realized why he would be disappointed; not because I let my race go down the drain, but he would be upset because I let down my team. I thought about it and even with the bad race that I was having, I was still going to finish second on my team. The top five on the team score, so I would still score for us, but if I dropped out then we would gain a lot of points, and more points in cross country is worse. The last half of the race I thought about them and I pushed through the pain and suffering, not for me, but so that my team still had a chance to do well. Most people do not think of cross country as a team sport, but it should not be considered anything else. Cross Country teams are the closest teams there are and you need every single person in the race to perform well as a team. Being a part of the Oakland Mills team finally taught me to focus on others and that it was not always about me. Another thing that the sport of running has taught me is perseverance. Throughout all my years of running I have had a lot of injuries. I always get through them, but they would get in the way of my training all the time. My freshman year it got bad when the track season started. My knees were having problems and almost all of indoor and outdoor track season I barely ran at all. I was able to get through some races occasionally, but my training was minimal, if I could even train at all. By the time cross country came around I felt pretty good and I made it through the

season with just a bit of pain. Again though, indoor track started and my knees flared up. I was seeing physical therapists and doctors. We got MRI’s and X-Rays, but no one could figure out what was wrong. This track season was harder for me to deal with because when I would race I was not in the shape I should have been and another girl on the team was overshadowing me which was difficult for me to accept. I was used to being the best, as selfish as that sounds, and it took me a while to get used to the change. The pain with my knees got out of hand, and it became so much worse since I had no idea what was wrong with them. All I wanted to do was run and compete well, but I could not. This was where many other runners would have given up and moved on to something else. Like I said before, my love for running is stronger than most people think. I would not give up on this sport, even with all the pain and struggles that I was going through. I had some horrible races and many awful runs, but there was no way I was going to stop trying. Eventually, we decided that it was probably growing pains and I had to work through it. The summer before my junior year I did just that and the pain slowly went away and I went on to have one of my best seasons. Running is a really tough sport, mentally and physically, but especially mentally. Most people end up quitting, not because of the work, but because mentally it wears them out and they cannot handle it anymore. I know that my parents, along with many others, were scared that this would happen to me since I kept having so many issues, but I persevered because I knew what I wanted and I knew that eventually I would be okay. Though it is a much underrated sport, running takes a lot of work in so many ways and I know that I would not be nearly as strong of a person in any way if I had not been a part of this sport. This uniform is not only something that I think made me look awesome as I raced, but it symbolizes Oakland Mills Cross Country. Over the four years on that team I have never learned

so much. The team was made up of incredible people that will be my life-long friends and have changed my life altogether. Putting on my uniform was a reminder that I was racing for them. Not only did the team change my life, but the sport in general. Dealing with those injuries my first two years of high school was devastating, especially when I was expected to be one of the best, and even though I kind of was for a while, we all knew that I could do better. Through all the rehab and doctor’s appointments, my life became very frustrating but my love for the sport overpowered anything else that could have stopped me. I knew what I wanted to do and I fought through everything that was thrown my way until I was able to accomplish the goals that I had set for myself. Even though it's just an item of clothing, it means so much to me and I will never forget the four years that I got to call myself a Scorpion.

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