To borrow from the quote by Hassan Mead, “Without Minnesota Track and Field, there is no me.”
It scares me to think of where I would be with it.
I would have never gone to the University of Minnesota without a call from Coach Roy Griak in March of 1986. I would have dropped out of college if not for for my connection to the track program and I would have never earned my college degree. That means not devoting 27 years of my life to teaching over 12,000 high school students and coaching more than 2000 athletes in track and cross country. The track and field program kept me going, and the lessons learned still keep me going today.
I am adapting a poem from Kevin Langton, a high school teammate, to capture what the Track and Field Program at the University of Minnesota did for me and many other young men.
The tartan surface there slows time. It gives time memory.
I am 53 years old today, and I clearly hear
the clicking of track spikes
the gasping for oxygen with teammates
trying to get to the finish line at the end of our last interval.
I still hear Griak’s voice echoing, “Gaul dang it guys, give me one more lap.”
Somehow, in the sticky hot air, we found another lap, one we didn’t know we had.
We found that lap because we had to, because we were Gophers.
It changed something inside us. It changed us, that last lap.
We carry that last lap with us, and we find it when we need it most
and in places we never expected.
We find it when we realize we have lied to ourselves too long.
We find it on snow covered trails on mountain hikes.
We find it during a 14 year journey of infertility, the loss of a job, and divorce court.
We find it when we bury friends, students, family and coaches.
We find it when we finally hear our daughter’s first cry, that first breath of life.
We find it on moonlit, midnight runs covered in soft rain
and doctor’s offices, car accidents, and prison visiting rooms.
We find it when something we care about so much, so much it becomes a part of us, may be taken away.
We find that last lap when we most need it
and we learn to carefully unwrap the gift of the U of MN Track and Field program
and discover the gift of being a Gopher.
Class of ‘91