By Madeleine Martindale
Lake Orion junior
At any sporting event, the superstars are the ones who draw us in. In track and field, the winning athletes keep the crowd roaring with pride as they pull ahead and cross the finish line first.
Meanwhile, the runners behind them receive only the periodic courtesy clap.
But, just like in the story of the rabbit and the hare, it’s the underdog athlete with the will to improve who can sneak up from behind and unexpectedly become a winning force – and can benefit most from your encouragement as you cheer from the stands above.
This is a story about my friend Corey, who was just that underdog. She is a solid athlete, but she was not the favorite to win her sprint events. Her ambition and positive attitude clearly stood out, though.
As a freshman, she had several spills caused by clipping the hurdles, and lived through her fair share of other embarrassing finishes too. Having a great family support system as well as teammates who believed success is small accomplishments strung together, Corey was unwilling to give up. She set her mind to improve her performance one day at a time.
Corey knew performing at a higher level was going to take commitment beyond the time limits of track season. She set goals, developed a plan and began working on it. Every day Corey would work extremely hard at practice. During the summer, she could be found at the track almost daily. She spoke her goals out loud and shifted her thoughts from “I might” to “I can” and “I will.” She continually clocked her times and pushed herself to reduce her best by one millisecond each time she ran.
The coach stepped in to monitor her progress too. He was willing to devote extra time to her since she had taken such initiative to improve. Anyone who paid attention to her work ethic knew Corey was going to achieve her goals. Also, it seemed certain the whole team would improve through Corey. If we wanted a chance at winning, we would have to increase our own training to keep ahead of her.
When track season arrived, Corey was ready. Her competitors were a little rusty from the winter, but they were still expected to finish ahead of her. I stood on the sideline and cheered for my team, but I was especially loud for Corey – who nervously anticipated her first race.
From the start, it was clear Corey’s efforts were paying off, and she was moving to the front of the pack. I ran down the sideline screaming for her to push a little harder and prove to herself she could do it. You could see the determination on her face and complete focus on getting to the finish line first. She had prepared for this, and it was clear she was not going to be defeated without giving her best fight.
She was winning … She won!
Her perseverance paid off and the cheers were all hers. Except for one.
The voice of one bad attitude came from the stands and made its way to the field. It angered those of us who heard it. It was from a parent who was less than happy that her daughter lost the race to “her” (Corey). As unkind as we felt it was to her daughter, who is a talented, hard-working athlete, it was equally unfair to Corey. We interpreted the inflection as the loss was a measure of poor performance rather than appreciation of Corey’s increased ability. Corey worked hard to produce such a notable performance, and deserved respect for this honorable win.
It doesn’t matter what sport you’re supporting; don’t limit your cheers to the superstar. Cheer louder for those underdogs. They dismiss their fears of failure and publicly face the challenge, falling often – which is harder to deal with the older we get. It’s this courageous attitude that should be encouraged, because it is the lesson that develops leaders in life. I feel it’s all of our responsibilities to foster their ambitions through positive encouragement and behaving respectfully when they finally reach their goals.
We cannot all be the superstar athletes you come to watch; but your support might keep us from giving up. After all, the moment you choose to sit in the stands is the moment you are an extension of our team. As such, we expect you to cheer on all of us like we do each other – not just the winners. Not just your daughters, sons or friends. Cheer for all of us as if we’re almost in first, with the finish line before us.
Madeleine Martindale, Lake Orion junior
- Sports: Track and Field (pole vault/sprints), competitive and sideline cheer
- Non-sports activities: Martindale created Our Hope Project, a service club she manages with other students from her school; also: bicycling, gymnastics, snowboarding.
- Favorite classes: Chemistry and Team Sports
- What's next: Martindale would like to continue her track and field at a university with a strong pole vault coach. She plans to study education in hopes of becoming a teacher and track and field coach while also continuing to work and mentor in her community.
- Shining sports moments: Setting Lake Orion's pole vault record, being named team Most Valuable Player as a freshman and qualifying for the MHSAA Final despite a taped ankle and while wearing tennis shoes; Winning the summer Grand Haven Beach Vault with a personal record of 10 feet; Placing fifth with her teammates at last season's Division 1 Cheer Finals.
- Pump-up jam: "It's a Beautiful Day" (U2)