An Open Letter to Graduating Seniors

To the Graduating Track & Field Class of 2015,

As track & field championship season ramps up here in New Jersey, if there is something I could impress upon you, it would be this:

Enjoy it.

20150512_184601Cherish the final warm days, laying out on the track after a hard workout with your teammates. Remember that smell of the hot rubber on a warm spring afternoon or the way it feels to lace up your spikes and blast intervals at what feels like superhuman speed. Welcome the burn in your lungs and in your legs as you squeeze every last drop out of yourself. Remember those final few strides and your gasps for breath as you blast through the line. That white line. The one you’ve dreamt about night in and night out for months. The reason you get up early on Saturdays for practice. The reason you stay in the weight room late after practice has ended.

As the next few weeks rush by, and this chapter of your running career comes to a close, take the time to remember the small things. The smiles. The screams. The tears. The cheers. Take pleasure in your victories and learn from the defeats. Remember the roar from your teammates and coaches as they line the straightaways and fences to cheer you on to a personal best or a championship.

No one will remember you for your times. They’ll remember you for your character – for the times you’ve hugged a competitor or said ‘nice job’ after a race accompanied by a handshake, or the times you’ve yelled for a teammate during a workout on that hot red oval you’ve gotten to know every inch of over the past four years. The way you carry yourself – in victory or defeat – is how you’ll be remembered by your teammates, coaches, competitors and supporters.

IMG_20150512_103038Take the time to learn. Respect the sport. Learn the history of those that came before you. Learn about their races…their battles…because at some point you too will soon be one of “the ones” they talk about years down the road. You too will soon be a name, time and year in a meet program, or a photograph on a wall in a hallway of a school.

Your support. Your family. Don’t for a second take them for granted. Your mother and grandmother sitting in the bleachers during a cold and blustery early season March dual meet, or the sound of your father’s voice around the final turn of the track, as you speed home to the line…to your goal. Soon those voices and cheers will fade, but their support – in running, and in life – will never wane.

Your coaches. You may not understand now, but one day you will. The hours they’ve spent, before, during and after practice…and on occasion well into the night…devising a plan for your success.   They’ve pushed you – some days to your physical limit – but it was all in the name of bettering yourself as an athlete and more importantly a person. They too are educators, just in a different classroom – they’ve helped you learn something about yourself.  One day…five, ten, fifteen years down the road…you’ll understand their commitment to you. Remember the pats on the back, the high fives, and ‘good jobs’ after racing to a personal best, or the voices screaming splits halfway across the track.  You’ll have your ups and your downs as running carries on, but know that you can always come back to where you first fell in love with the sport for advice and support.

As the weeks of May bleed into June, the path behind you is quickly narrowing and pushing you towards a finish line. In front of you however, waits an infinite stretch of possibilities and paths.  As your high school career comes to its final meters, know that all which lies behind you – the meets, practices, workouts and time spent with your teammates and coaches –  has laid the foundation as you embark upon the next leg of your journey. 

Craig Segal

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