Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Lioness

Rebekah with Micah Brickhill
Every so often, an athlete comes along who defies the odds. She is focused and driven. She exceeds expectations. And she takes it all in stride.

Micah Brickhill won three state titles yesterday in the VISAA (Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association). Last week she qualified for Nationals by running a blazing 2:12 for 800 meters. A few weeks ago, she entered a college meet and won the 800, defeating the Big South 1600 meter champion. A month or two before that, she signed her letter of intent to run for the University of Virginia this fall. And prior to that, in fact, a few  years prior, Coach Ramsey Moore suggested to the young athlete that one day she could be a champion. She believed it and then lived to become it.

I met Micah three years ago when I began coaching the distance runners at LCA. I was not her primary coach but I was drawn to the blond-headed girl who ran with her french braid cascading down her back. She was special. Perhaps I saw a little of myself in her. Or more honestly, maybe it was that I wondered what I might have become if I had pursued the option to run at Villanova. But whatever it was, I felt attached to her, perhaps a kindred spirit to her insatiable desire for excellence.

I watched Micah hone her fitness and skill as a mid-distance runner. But I also witnessed this athlete reach the pinnacle of scholarship and service with an uncommon sincerity and humbleness. Clear-minded and committed to pursuing her passion for sport, academics, and practical Christianity, Micah touches all she contacts, including me.

On the eve before the State meet, I thought about what Coach Moore had spoken of in the team meeting earlier in the day. "Be like a lion. Roar. Go after it. Run down the gazelle!" Then, with pen in hand, I carefully penned these words for Micah.

Dear Micah,

I love big cats, especially female cats. Sleek. Strong. Powerful. Cunning and quick. Patient and protective. Both gentle and ferocious depending on the circumstance. Smart. Calculating.

Just watch a lioness when she is hungry. She carefully scopes out her prey before lying in wait. She peers through the tall grass and analyzes every movement of her next meal. Then, just at the right moment, she begins her stalk. Slowly at first, she creeps along the ground, an unseen force moving toward her prey. Every muscle is primed for what will come. Still, the lioness is patient. Springing forward too quickly will alert whom she stalks, jeopardizing the kill and exhausting herself in the fray. But waiting too long may give the intended prey the moment she needs to escape.

Instead, the smart lioness knows the exact moment to leap forward and run down her prey. She sets her pace and times the assault at that perfect moment when the prey can no longer respond, no longer able to escape to see the next sunrise. And while the lioness is not guaranteed a meal, she eats more times than not.

As you run, think like the lioness. Be patient. Be in control. Never lose sight of the prey. Overcome her in that exact moment when she has no power to flee. Trust your disciplined instinct and savor the exquisite taste that comes with the kill. And should the prey manage to avoid your claws, retreat to reflect and train, setting your sights on the next hunt.

You have my deepest love and respect,
Coach T




Run long, run strong, my dear Micah. I will miss you next year!

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