I have a couple of new heroes this week. My heroes are both 8th grade girls on the Linn-Mar cross country team and both are true champions.
The first one's name is Madeline. Madeline is pretty easy to find - just wait at the finish line and she will be the first person you see at the end of the race. Madeline wins cross country races like Tiger Woods used to win golf tournaments .. squinting into the rear view mirror to spot the runner up.* But, as Tiger Woods also demonstrated, being a great athlete does not automatically make you a champion.
The other girl's name is Annie. I don't know too much about Annie, but what I do know is that as a child she had surgery on her legs to improve her ability to walk. Did you catch that? Her ability to walk. Did I mention that Annie is on the Linn-Mar cross country team?
At tonight's meet, Madeline was conspicuously absent from the leader board. In fact it wasn't until well after the girls race had finished and the boys race was underway that I actually caught sight of her. But it wasn't Madeline who first caught my attention .. it was Annie.
I was watching the boys enter into their first straightaway when a figure in the crowd caught my eye. It was Annie, attempting to extract herself from the sweaty, panting mass of humanity and begin her final assault on the finish line. But Annie wasn't alone.
Tonight Madeline and Annie had run the race together.
As the two approached the finish line, a small group of girls caught sight of them and ran to the edge of the track cheering. Madeline crossed the finish line alongside Annie .. to a hero's welcome.
A true champion is someone who, after accomplishing more than one might reasonably expect, still has something left over to give to someone else. Thanks, girls, for giving me a rare glimpse of what it means to be a true champion.
* Yeah, you caught me exaggerating. When Madaline looks back over her shoulder she actually sees Stephanie, a 7th grade runner, also from Linn-Mar. It is Stephanie who has to squint into her rear view mirror to spot the next runner up.