MALLAK: Time to give thanks to all my coaches

Written by HLWW senior Gracie Mallak

When Kip reached out to me about his idea of doing one last story for all of the senior athletes who had their senior seasons stripped away from them, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about my coaches because, without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

This winter, I had thought a lot about what my “why” was going to be for this track season. In years past, my “why” had been to qualify for the state meet, to run well for my team, to break the school record, or to catch the attention of colleges. But this year, I knew that my “why” was going to be something bigger. My “why” was going to be for my coaches… the people who constantly supported me and pushed me to grow as an athlete and person. I wanted to run for them and show them that everything they had poured into me the past 6 years had paid off. And while I didn’t have the opportunity to do that this season, I wanted to share with all of you a little bit about each of the coaches who mean so much to me.

Ashley Roemer has been such a positive coach and role model for me throughout the years. She has always been so encouraging and constantly reminds me to trust that while I might not be able to do it with my own strength, I can do it with Christ’s strength. Before most races, you could usually find me with a nervous smile on my face as Mrs. Roemer reminded me that “You can do hard things!” When I was in eighth grade, Mrs. Roemer handed me a card with a Bible verse on one side and time goals that seemed very fast (written in pencil) for the race that day on the back. That day, I ran one of my best races ever and hit the time goals. Mrs. Roemer told me that there was a reason the goals were written in pencil! I still have that card and it serves as a reminder to me of the amazing coach and person that Mrs. Roemer is and the fact that she believed in me even when I wasn’t sure of my own abilities.

Wade Moravec has always been able to put a smile on my face. Mr. Moravec reminded me often that when I’m having fun with running, that is when I will find the most joy in the sport. He’s taught me to not overcomplicate things and to trust that when I work hard and dedicate myself to the process, success will follow. Mr. Moravec has been so great at helping me keep things in perspective throughout my high school career. He has been sure to challenge me in “hidden” ways throughout the years. When I was in seventh grade, Mr. Moravec split me up from my normal training group and suggested that I run with some older boy teammates for that day’s “easy” run. To this day, that run was one of the hardest runs I have ever been on. But it was also one of the most fun runs I’ve ever been on. Throughout the years, I’ve realized that Mr. Moravec had me run with those boys that day in seventh grade because he wanted to help me understand that when I surrounded myself with those who were better than me, it gave me the opportunity to grow. I’m thankful for a coach who had always reminded me to have fun, give it my all, and to challenge myself in whatever I am pursuing.

Andy Hertwig has got to be one of the most dedicated track coaches in the state of Minnesota. This guy loves track and field like no other. But as much as he loves the sport, it’s evident that he loves the kids even more. Hertwig and I haven’t always seen eye to eye on everything but I am so grateful for that. I know he has always had my best interests in mind and he has gone above and beyond to help me achieve my goals. During my sophomore year, I had stress fractures but it was really important for me to run at the team events in hopes of qualifying for true team state. Most coaches would have just said, ‘your season is over, take a seat.’ Not Hertwig though. He told me it wasn’t going to be easy and that he didn’t exactly like the thought of running/ competing while injured, but that if I really wanted to do it, he’d help me. We came up with a modified training plan that had me doing all workouts on a stationary bike and only running at meets. Hertwig had me carrying a trash can with me throughout the school day that became my ice bucket so that I could ice throughout the day. While it wasn’t ideal, Hertwig knew that it was my goal to help my team get to the state meet, so he was going to help me get there. We made it to true team state that year and I got to do my favorite thing in the world, compete alongside my teammates, all because I had a coach who didn’t give up on me or my goals. A couple of months ago, I was really struggling when it came to the mental aspect of the sport, and Hertwig and I were having a conversation. At the end of the conversation, he told me that if I was unable to get myself back onto the track that he wouldn’t think any less of me, and that I would be OK because there was more to life than running in circles. I’m grateful for a coach who cared about me beyond the track. Hertwig has shown me what it looks like to be a great coach, but more importantly, he has shown me what it looks like to be a great person.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without these three extraordinary people. While I was the one out there running the races, I know that I didn’t get there on my own. I owe it to my coaches, the people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. If you ever think that high school coaches don’t have an impact on student-athletes, I hope that after reading this you realize how impactful they really are. They were such impactful figures in my life, not because we always agreed on everything, but because I knew that their intentions were to help me grow into the best version of myself. I’m so grateful for coaches who have been with me through the good and the bad and coaches who’ve inspired me to relentlessly chase after all of my goals, both on and off the track.

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