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Column: One race over; here comes another

By MEREDITH MOORE, 2016 WHS graduate WORTHINGTON -- Principal Noble, Mr. Hastings, Superintendent Landgaard, teachers, members of the school board, honored guests and my fellow classmates:Friday, May 20, 2016: I'm guessing the majority of my peer...

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By MEREDITH MOORE, 2016 WHS graduate

WORTHINGTON - Principal Noble, Mr. Hastings, Superintendent Landgaard, teachers, members of the school board, honored guests and my fellow classmates:
Friday, May 20, 2016: I’m guessing the majority of my peers have had today’s date on their minds for a very long time. And now here we are, just moments away from walking across this stage, receiving our diplomas and ending our 13 years of learning in the Worthington school system. In addition to thoughts about graduation, odds are that carefree summer plans have also danced through our heads as we put the final touches on that Trojan Textiles t-shirt or sweat over that AP Calculus project. This summer, I am really looking forward to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mostly, I can’t wait to watch the remarkable runners, because running is my favorite sport. I love the mental challenge it imposes on each individual athlete.
In some ways, running a race is similar to our past 13 years. Our elementary school days were our warm ups, preparing us for the larger race at hand. Middle school represented the “awkward” few minutes before a competition begins - a time full of anxious feelings, worry about other’s strengths, and ambiguity about the future. And finally, BAM! The gun goes off and the long-awaited high school race commenced.
If you’ve ever run a race of any distance, you know it is not always a smooth track to the finish line. Many obstacles can arise, just as they did during our high school years. However, I believe it’s the way we get over these hurdles and keep moving forward that really matters. Surprisingly, being a runner has taught me many valuable life lessons which I think can be applied to each of our future paths. Tonight, I’m going to share five of them with you:
Beginning the race is the biggest challenge. It is not always easy to convince yourself to go out for a run, but once you do, you are usually glad you started. The same thought can be applied to life: when we go out into the world, we have to try new things and step out of our comfort zones, because if we stay behind the starting line our whole lives, we’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. Besides, the toughest competitor is not the guy next to you, it’s the voice in your head that says you can’t succeed. Running is more about how far you can push yourself to keep going even when your mind is telling you to quit. After tonight, this is an idea we can all implement: in “real-life,” it will be tempting to compare yourself to others, but try to only focus on YOUR path.
Push up the hill - even when things don’t go as planned. Hills are your best friend. I mean, you don’t have to approach hills, or other problems that may occur, with a negative attitude. Don’t dread the courses with steep hills, and don’t give up when it’s 40 degrees and drizzling, or when you get a bad side ache. The race goes on, with no time outs, no substitutions, and no water breaks. In our futures as farmers, doctors, scientists, hairstylists, and teachers, we will come upon gigantic hills, and it’s up to each of us to decide how we’ll handle them. Here’s a secret, though: get to the top of the hill, you’ll be on flat ground again, and can coast for a while. Hard work pays off.
Be honest, but be forceful. There are many points in a cross country race when it’s just you and the course… no spectators or officials are around to catch cheaters who cut corners. However, we have to remind ourselves that being dishonest is not the way to success. Even if it seems like no one is watching, your deceitfulness will definitely catch up with you one day. But don’t be afraid to stick your elbow out once in a while. Running is definitely not known as a contact sport, because all one does is… run. But even during girls’ races, things can get pretty dramatic and intense. Several runners will not hesitate to trip, spike, cut off, or elbow other competitors. We all need to know how and when to stand up for ourselves. Don’t let anyone push you off your own course!
You are capable of more than you think. Running is a mental sport. If you think you can run the mile in under 5:00, you probably have a better chance at doing it than someone who tells themselves they could never achieve that goal. Humans can do miraculous things with the right mindset. We are all more than capable of reaching and even surpassing our future goals, if we just believe we can.
Enjoy as much as you can along the way. In the midst of a competition, thoughts of the finish line are often all that is racing though a runner’s head. But, we should try to take in our surroundings and be thankful we have two strong legs that allow us to run. In life, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and not be appreciative of the little joys that come with every day, such as a sunny morning or the smell of coffee. We need to learn to be grateful for everything that is around us and not just focus on the tasks we have to complete. Don’t save all of your happiness for the finish line.
Like it or not, each of us in the Worthington High School Class of 2016 is about to become a runner in the race of our lives. Our individual courses will diverge, but we must keep our heads up and move forward. Louis Zamperini, a man who overcame a magnitude of challenges in his life, once said: “I’ve made it this far and refused to give up because all my life I had always finished the race.”
I believe Zamperini summed it up perfectly; As long as we are all true to our own values and never stop striving for achievement, we will finish our individual races successfully and on our own courses.
There’s no choice in the middle of a cross country race but to keep advancing towards the finish, and right now it’s time for us to tie on our running shoes.
So step up to the starting line, because our races are just about to begin; ready, set, GO!

This is the second of two WHS student commencement speeches given May 20 at graduation.

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