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I have been a runner since my freshman year of high school. Cross country was a sport that was foreign and honestly terrifying to me. I could not grasp the concept of willingly going out and putting yourself through that kind of physical torment for extended periods of time. But my outlook soon changed. The first month and a half of cross country was a blur of pain, from the burn of asthma in my lungs to the dull ache of overworked muscle. But I kept with it, and to this day I could not tell you why I kept going. Perhaps it was the encouragement my mom gave (as well as her sly comment about how I would feel if I gave up) or not wanting to let down my coach (a family friend) or my teammates (who were beginning to become good friends). Though I have veered off from time to time, running, the simultaneously magnificent and terrible sport that it is, has led me down a surprising path that I could never have imagined as I stepped off the cross country bus for the first time five years ago. And in many ways I have the same thoughts about college.
There was never a point in my life where I did not want to go to college. I assumed that college was the natural next step on the path of life. As time passed of course I came to realized that college was not the path that everyone took… or one that everyone wanted to take. And as I make my way through my third semester of college, I am getting a very clear picture as to one of the reasons why one might not want to move onto higher education.
College is hard.
I do not say that to scare or intimidate, just to state a fact. College classes are difficult, and rightly so–they are preparing you for jobs in the proverbial real world or for even more education at a higher level. It takes work and dedication to achieve the grades you want or need and sometimes that means sacrificing other aspects of your life. My freshman year there was a talk about the Social, Sleep, and School triangle. If you dedicate too much time to sleep and your social life then your academics suffer and too much study time and social interactions decrease how much sleep you can get etc. I am still trying to find that balance, and to be honest I am not sure anyone has been successful.
The fundamental goal for an individual in cross country or track is to get a lower PR (which is your personal best time). The only way to do that is to practice; to get out on the track after school and run 200 meter repeats or go on a 7 mile run. There is no half-way when it comes to competitive training, you either put forth the effort or get left in the dust. Only once in my running career did I put forth that effort. My sophomore year of high school I ran like I never imagined I could. I was winning races because I worked for it. I had a passion for the sport that made all of the grueling workouts and sometimes tedious long runs seem like nothing.
Steve Prefontaine (also known as Pre) was the United States foremost running athlete in the late sixties and early seventies. At one point, he was quoted saying, “Some people create with words or with music or with brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” Should we not all be creative in what we do? I know at times it is difficult because we get run down with work, school, family, social lives, the newest season of The Walking Dead, but there should at least be some glimmer of that passion in everything we do.
College is hard but not impossible. While it is not always possible for us to approach everything with such a passion as Pre’s, we should at least try. In whatever we do, we should let just a little bit of that passion show through. Your quantifiable success in college is given by a three digit number which is the equivalent of your PR. The only way to get a better PR is to train; to study like you have never studied so that the material is not just familiar to you but permanently ingrained in your mind. So have a passion for whatever you are doing, academically or otherwise, because in the end, whatever you are working toward will be worth all of the mental or physical toil.
One of the most important things to me is my well-being, and staying healthy throughout the year. Coming to college, I was a nervous about the rumoured Freshman 15, and the unhealthy food options many college dining halls have to offer. However, I was pleasantly surprised about the many different programs at Juniata to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
The program I am most involved in on campus is Fit Lab, which is run through the Theatre Department. One of the theatre professors, Neal Utterback, works with students every weekday morning at 8:00 (early, I know!) to prepare for the Spartan Race, a 10 mile obstacle course race occurring each summer. Each day of the week is different exercises, and on Wednesdays we do a high-intensity yoga session (my favorite form of exercise!). Neal is a great motivator, and really strives to boost endurance and performance.
Another fitness option is Zumba. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there are classes held in the lounge of Terrace & Tussey (two of the dorms on campus) that are taught by students. The classes aren’t too difficult, but will definitely make you sweat! If you’ve never tried Zumba before, these classes are a great place to dance with your friends while burning off the fries you might have had at dinner.
The most popular place to exercise on campus however, is the Fitness Center. Open every day of the week, it’s the best place to pop in for a quick workout in the morning or before dinner (any time, actually!). Since we go to a small school, the gym is never too packed and there are always plenty of machines to use. There is also a separate room with mats and exercises balls for additional use. I personally like exercising with few people around, so I love going to the gym during the day if I have a break in between classes, when the gym is most empty.
There’s many places I didn’t mention (the pool, racquetball room, the outdoors, etc.) that are great for exercise or blowing off steam all over campus. College can definitely be a stressful place, balancing classes, social outings and fitting in time for yourself, so it is always important to find places to relax and stay healthy!
On Saturday, January 31st at 4 pm, the Juniata College men’s basketball team played Drew University; however, this was a basketball game unlike any other. Throughout my three years at Juniata, I have gone to several basketball games, but I have never before seen such an enormous crowd of fans at a regular season game. The bleachers and surrounding areas were full of students, faculty, and community members who were all wearing white t-shirts with hashtags saying, “#WeGotShaqsBack” and “#ShaqTheHouse.” Without some more context, you might be thinking that Shaquille O’Neil came to visit Juniata. Unfortunately, that will probably never happen at small-town Huntingdon, but we do have our own “Shaq.”
In October 2014, Shaquille “Shaq” Smith, a Juniata College freshman basketball player, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Within just three short months, Shaq was put on life support while in a coma and had suffered three strokes. Amazingly, Shaq is now on his way to recovery but still requires 24-hour care. With rising medical bills, the Juniata College men’s basketball team held a game in order to raise money for Shaq’s family. Typically, games are free to students, but for this game, students and all other fans could purchase a five-dollar t-shirt or bracelet for admission into the game. The money that was raised from the concession stand, 50/50, and halftime contests was also donated to Shaq’s family.
Before the beginning of the game, Shaq was wheeled out to the middle of the court where he expressed his gratitude for everything that had been done in his honor. His teammates and coaches hugged him and shook his hand, but even more powerful, the Drew team members, all wearing #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts, also shook his hand. This was when the waterworks began for me. There is something just absolutely beautiful when two opposing teams can come together to unite for a cause. The game is put aside, and reality prevails.
English author Charles Buxton once wrote, “Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body and soul.” Not only did the Juniata College men’s basketball team demonstrate this zeal by defeating Drew 68-58, but Shaq, unable to walk and still suffering from multiple complications, said to the crowd, “Don’t worry about me. I’m a fighter, so I’m going to keep on fighting.” And with that high level of perseverance and the tremendous amount of support from the community, Shaq will be right back out on that basketball court in no time.
To learn more about Shaq’s illness and/or to donate to the cause, please visit the following website: http://www.gofundme.com/kwlq58.
It’s Senior Day for Juniata College Field Hockey. It is still weird to know that it is the last time for many things regarding my college career, including my athletic collegiate career. I have grown with this team for over 3 years and thinking to part with what my class has built within our time at Juniata makes me feel sad, but I can leave the team with confidence that the girls will continue to fight to be the best. These girls have become my second family, which provided me with the support system that I needed since my family is more than 16 hours away in Tampa, Florida. When I am down, I know that I have 25 other girls that will lift me up and that kind of support is one that helps you survive in your darkest times. Not many people can say that or experience that kind of love and friendship. So I regard myself as lucky to have this atmosphere every year.
Even though we all are all trying to find out who we are and shape our futures, there is one thing that will always connect us. Hockey.
Our team has struggled and fought to stay on top in the Landmark Conference every year, pushing each other to our limits to get better everyday. You may have friends that push you but for me there are 25 other girls pushing me to give it all that I have out on the field in practice and in games. The drive that any athlete has and the willingness to play with others to achieve a common goal is an inspiring story that is unique to each team. The joy and frustration from being on a team is complex, but it is something that will always stay with you after college. The relationships and memories that you make will be what you carry with you later in life. There is no end to JCFH because JCFH is family and family never goes away.
As much as I love my team, I am excited to have my mother here to support me on my special day. She will be cheering from the stands and probably yelling at the umpires for bad calls because she is still protective of her child. Thanks to her I started field hockey and was able to go to college. If it weren’t for her pushing me everyday, I would not be at Juniata playing field hockey with this energetic group of girls. I also wouldn’t have played with an amazing group of adults from different countries that would help me to develop into the player and person that I have come to be. Field hockey is not just a sport, it is more than that. It gives you a family and a fire to fight for what you want no matter what the odds. You learn to depend on others and to put your faith in them. It is not about the individual but what is best for the whole and overcoming hardships together. That is what field hockey is to me.
Before spring break, everyone on campus is talking about what they are going to do with their break. I personally heard three main types of spring breaks: the people who sleep through it, the people who go on vacation, and the people who take service trips. I however, was not in any of these categories. As a part of the Juniata Softball team, we took a spring break trip to Florida. As nice as the warm Florida weather sounds and how exciting and fun the trip actually was, it was exhausting. Overall, we were in Florida for a week. We played a total of ten games, two per day. The day we got there, we also practiced. Doing all of this, right out of the gates in the hot Florida sun is exhausting, but the fun parts made it totally worth it.
In my opinion, the best day of the whole spring break trip was Wednesday, March 12th. This day was also known as our only free day. We had to option to either go somewhere with our parents, go with someone else’s parents, or go with one of the coaches to a New York Yankee’s Spring Training game. As a huge Yankee fan, I decided that even though my parents were in Florida, I wanted to go to the game. It was pretty awesome. Not only did I get to sleep in that day, but I also got to see Derek Jeter in person, who is retiring this year. It was pretty exciting.
We did other fun things in Florida too. One night we got to explore Downtown Disney, the huge shopping center in Orlando. Another night, we ended up exploring Orlando trying to find an ice cream place because everyone on the team wanted ice cream. Something huge we also did was community service. Our Coach wants us to help out the community everywhere we go. We ended up helping a local softball park make its park look better by painting the parking stops. Overall, I would say the fun and exciting parts of the trip balanced out the exhausting parts. This kind of trip really helped our team bond as a whole and it was totally worth the experience.