Few athletes ever advance to state competition.
It’s an opportunity that thousands dream of at a young age, and for some, it’s as soon as they score their first touchdown, sink their first free throw or run their first mile.
While many of those dreams fall short by the time they trade a uniform for a cap and gown, a select few can claim they went up against the elite.
What the Seymour girls cross-country team has done over the past three years is nothing short of remarkable.
They’ve morphed a goal into an expectation, and become one of the most successful athletics programs in Jackson County in recent years advancing to state three straight times.
For me, the true reality of this accomplishment came during the championship race Saturday in Terre Haute.
But it wasn’t a Seymour runner who resonated the most with me during that race.
Crowded at the fence, caught between bodies like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, I witnessed a finish I won’t ever forget.
The temperature at LaVern Gibson climbed to 80 degrees, and the wind created a barrier for the runners to bust through the final quarter-mile of the race.
The unseasonable warm spell made the 3.1 miles even more difficult for those running.
While one runner emerged as champion, it was another that caught my eye.
A girl no taller than 5-foot-5 — from a school I won’t name — closed in on the finish from about 50 yards.
Her face was flushed as her legs wobbled like a fawn — ready to collapse.
So, those legs collapsed.
Five ticks of the clock later, she mustered what she had left and got back up as the other runners dodged her for placing.
She then fell again. And again, two more times.
The final time her body hit the ground, she didn’t have more than 5 feet from the line.
On her hands and knees, she crawled to cement her name in her school’s history — no matter the final time or place.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a cliché in motion like I did on Saturday.
She fell down, but always got back up one more time.
It’s the physical manifestation of determination that you rarely see, but never forget.
I would guess that every runner for Seymour has that same desire, that never-say-die attitude to keep pushing forward when nothing’s left.
That slight mental edge, that tops all physical abilities, often times separates the best from the pack.
That’s what separates a semistate from state team.
Next fall, the Owls should once again advance to the final show.
By that day’s end (should it come) a majority of the girls from that race will have ran in state for all four years of their high school career.
That’s would be a special accomplishment. One that doesn’t often come to a smaller school in southern Indiana.
Jordan Morey is the sports editor for The Tribune. Send comments to email@example.com.