Opinion: Hard work really does pay off

Writer+and+runner+Veronica+Winham+competed+earlier+this+month+in+the+Foot+Locker+West+Regionals.

Scott Winham

Writer and runner Veronica Winham competed earlier this month in the Foot Locker West Regionals.

Veronica Winham, Staff Writer

As I rode up to Mount San Antonio College, I could see a super long, steep hill. That’s when I first knew how challenging Mount SAC would be. The cross country course there was unlike anything I had ever run before on any of the Hawaiian Islands. The course was nothing but hills: vertical hills, steep hills, long hills, and a rocky switchback hill. These hills gave me the realization of how a strong work ethic can really pay off.

On Dec. 3, I had the privilege of running in Foot Locker West Regionals. This cross country race is located just outside of Los Angeles in Walnut, California. Working hard to win the 2016 Hawaii State Cross Country Championship provided me with this opportunity: a trip to California paid for by the Honolulu Marathon Association, and a chance to run with other top runners from the western region of the United States (from states like Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon, etc).

Making the decision to even do the race was a hard one. I was going to be missing a week of school, be away from my family, and have to train through all of November, when I had thought my running season was done, and I was on my first break since June. Luckily, though, my family made the last-minute choice to come with me to California and turn it into a fun trip by going on college visits, and to Universal Studios.

Training on my own without my team was challenging. Some days I was joined by a friend or two, but for most of the repeats or long days of mileage and weight room, I was on my own. Coach Bobby, my cross country and track coach, continued to train me this extra month, despite having to rearrange his busy work schedule and family life. The fact that Bobby kept working with me shows how much he believes me and wants me to keep getting better.

One of the greatest things I took away from cross country was the feeling of support from my team and coach. Joining a team, or club, with common interests or goals really makes you grow as close as a family. Finding someone to share your passion with should be a driving force that encourages everything to explore what they love or try new things.

On the Thursday I arrived in California, I practiced the course. Mount SAC is high in the mountains, and since I am from Hawaii and not used to cold winter weather, I was freezing as soon as I stepped out of our red rental car. The terrain of the course consisted of mostly loose dirt that made running down the steep downhills tricky and a bit scary at times, especially when racing in a pack.

On Friday, the day before Regionals, I ran the course one more time to get more comfortable with it. I had been one of the only people there on Thursday, but on Friday it was packed. Runners and full teams were sprinting, jogging, and stretching all over the place. The lines to register were long because in addition to the seeded girls race that I was in, there were sixteen other races, including at least one per grade level.

The day of the race I warmed up the same as I usually do, keeping my routine and breakfast similar to what it is on Maui. I found a parking lot to do my drills and strides alone and then did some stairs to wake up my legs. My race was the second to last one. I arrived on the field to be ushered to a special area by the officials. Because I had won states in Hawaii I got a special introduction in front of the whole crowd. I got to do a lap around the field with the other state champions, waving and shaking hands with U.S. Olympic Track Team member, Brenda Martinez. This was exciting, as well as very fun and special for me.

Regionals was a different experience for me both mentally and as a runner.
Despite pushing myself every practice since summer and constantly trying be better myself as an athlete, I had a hard time convincing myself I deserved to be there with those other girls. My placement was towards the middle/back, and I learned just how fast other girls in the country are. Some of the times the girls in the front ran were amazing. Still, the faster my competition, the harder I pushed myself.

The whole season I had never run in a large pack or had such a big crowd of spectators. The course was hard but went by quickly. I started faster than I usually did but still finished with one of my slower times of the season. I was still happy with my time because with all of the hills; it was what I had expected.

I was discouraged at first because I usually never finished so far back, but looking back on the race I am extremely glad I went. I learned a lot about myself and had a fun trip with my family. The race was valuable to me because it taught me lessons about my own perseverance and how passionate about running I am. I hope to go back next year and do even better.

Going to California and getting to run there proved to me how important a work ethic really is. If I hadn’t pushed myself to my full potential over the regular season, I would not have had the successes or opportunities I received. Working hard towards a goal helped me accomplish more than I had imagined and opened many new doors for me.

Giving something your all can seem scary, but if you’re passionate enough and work hard, anything is achievable. Getting over the mental obstacle of deciding to leave everything on the field, court, or stage is probably the hardest part to anything competitive, but win or lose, you’ll know you tried your hardest and did everything you could, instead of having regrets and wondering what could have been.