As a current senior running for the women’s cross country and track team at the University of Minnesota, track has been very influential in my life, but in more ways than simply being an afterschool activity. I ran my very first track race when I was 12 years old. As a 12-year-old, I was small, awkward and didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, a feeling that I’m sure most people can relate to when they were that age. As a 12-year-old, I also was running for our high school track program, despite being only in middle school. Even though I was younger than the rest of my teammates, and certainly not mature in any way, I was welcomed by each and every person on the team and somehow found a place where I felt like I did fit in. Track is where I found my home.

Once it came time to start looking at colleges, I fell in love with the University of Minnesota as well as their track team and could not wait to join the program! And once again, I immediately knew that this team was my family. That is the power that track and field has, to make everyone feel like they belong.

Since that first day on campus I have had the opportunity to grow with each and every person on our team--and that includes both the men’s and the women’s, because we are one team and one family. I have had the chance to learn from others, be pushed to be my best and above all been supported by everyone. The people on this team are my best friends and my family.

Track and field has offered me the most unique and amazing experience of my life. It allowed me to pursue my own ambitions, despite my young age and that’s because track doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how tall you are or what color your skin is. Once the competition begins, all that matters is who runs the fastest, jumps the highest or throws the farthest.

As a native Minnesotan, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to continue to run collegiately at the division 1 level and represent my home state, which is something that I had dreamed of. I have a little brother, who is 11 right now. He has talked non-stop about how when he turns 12, he is going to join the track team just like I did and follow in my footsteps. It breaks my heart to think about the fact that if this proposal goes through and the men’s team is cut, he can’t follow in my footsteps and run for his home state.

So today, I’m fighting for not just my teammates or my brother but also for every single person who has been impacted by track and field. Because track and field truly is something special and it deserves to be fought for.