I grew up in Willmar, Minnesota, a western town tucked away by cornfields and highways. I was just 11 years old when I first allowed myself to think outside the city limits, when I laced up my hand-me-down tennis shoes and threw on a pair of my brother’s old basketball shorts. This was the first time I went running, and I can vividly remember the dreams that commenced from this simple, yet transformative moment. From that day forward, the combination of my dedication, passion, and the image of one day running around my home state’s Division I track brought me to where I am today, and I would not go back to change any of it.

My dream did come true. Being a part of the University of Minnesota’s Cross Country and Track & Field programs has given me a chance to live out my dream and set myself up for a lifetime filled with achievements. But as I run more miles and grow as a young adult, it is not the level of accomplishment that I will live by, but rather the people that have pushed me to reach those goals. I have not only found a home where I can be myself to my highest potential, but I have found a family of teammates that will love me, cheer for me, and support me, no matter the outcome. It crushes me to know that the hero in 11-year-old me’s eyes will not be able to stand with a program that epitomizes this excellence. Because without our men’s team, we are not whole, and we are not “excellent”. The excellence of our program stems from the people, men or women, coaches or athletes, that allow everyone else around them to dream of something greater than themselves.

That is the beauty of this team and this program. It creates this space for every gender, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, height, weight, skill, you name it. But most importantly, this program fulfills the dreams of the kids that never knew they were capable of dreaming.