by William Terpstra, Class of 2018
I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I was in sixth grade and I found myself staring at the white cross country sign-up page that was hanging in the hallway. I figured that I would give running a shot. After all, my older sister ran cross country and my mom ran in high school and college. I quickly scribbled my signature without a second thought. However, this impromptu decision would ultimately develop into a major passion.
The cross country season begins in the fall, therefore, it is one of the first official school sports in which a Timothy student can participate. While I had played basketball, a brief amount of soccer, and other sports before 6th grade at my local park district, competition in the form of running was very foreign to me. There were no points, no fouls, no referees, or any of the usual conventions of most other sports. The sport of cross country is simply the runner and the course.
Middle school cross country was a great introduction to the sport of competitive running. Long time coach, Mr. Snoeyink, knew well how to handle the large numbers of kids. He really helped show me the ropes the first couple of years. Not only that, but Coach Snoeyink also made running enjoyable. He was excited about the team’s accomplishments and always encouraged us to strive to do our best. Showing up to practice every day with my friends became a routine that I grew to love. So, naturally, when 8th grade ended, I decided I would carry my running career forward into high school.
While middle school cross country felt challenging at times, high school presented a whole new level of difficulty and commitment. Extracurriculars filled my schedule, my homework load increased, and my time management skills were definitely put to the test. In terms of cross country, the races shifted from 2 miles in middle school, to 3 miles. One mile makes a huge difference. Running in high school put me in the company of more dedicated athletes. Workouts were more focused and time-based. Instead of a typical 2 or 3 mile run, I would instead be expected to run at least 4 miles nearly every day. The commitment overall was simply more substantial which only meant better results.
While these changes at first seemed daunting, they were really important in my personal growth. My head high school coach, Mr. Zylstra, has been a great leader for our team. Coach “Z” as we call him, consistently sets challenging, but not impossible goals that help each individual athlete. He is diligent in recording and tracking many workouts and all of our races from freshman to senior year, charting improvements from race to race as well as year to year. Under his leadership, recently both the girls and boys cross country teams have found great success: Both going to state in 2015 and the boys last year in 2016. Coach Z is not only a dedicated leader for our team, but also leads a passionate life for Christ. His faith is evident in his coaching and day to day life. Every Monday the team meets for devotions led by Z or a teammate, and we share prayer requests and grow closer together.
The Timothy cross country team has always been a place that has allowed me to set and achieve challenging goals. This past summer, I completed an overall high school running goal: To increase my total number of summer miles by 100 each successive year. Freshman year I ran 100, sophomore year 200, junior year 300, and this last summer I grinded out over 400 miles. In July, I was also able to run my first ever half marathon downtown Chicago in 1:36:14. I am also thrilled that with my training I am consistently under the 5:00 mark for the 1600m run. Every second I have spent running with my team, developing relationships and becoming stronger as an athlete, has been truly an incredible experience.
While at times I admit that racing may be close to agony, and running a burden, I have learned firsthand that there is much more to cross country than initially meets the eye. Running is a rewarding and constant journey that promotes determination, endurance, grit, and discipline. But the satisfaction of well-earned improvement, the creation of strong friendships, the encouragement in my faith, and the ability to use my God-given talents to glorify Him has made my journey as a runner truly, completely worthwhile.