And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
—Haruki Murakami

Curt Tryggestad
Executive Director
Perpich Center for Arts Education

I have great admiration for all athletes and especially enjoy following those that are at the top of their game. It’s even more fun when you happen to know them personally. My Uncle Wes has two grandchildren (not siblings) who are world-class athletes. Tyler is an elite Iron-Man competitor who won the 2017 Louisville 70.3 event and finished fourth overall in the 2018 Puerto Rico 70.3 Iron-Man last month. He is an incredible athlete. The other cousin is Samantha… and she runs marathons.

After graduating from a small high school in Wisconsin, Samantha attended Iowa State and eventually was the 2014 Big 12 5000-meter champion. She went on to coach undergrad runners at the University of Toledo where she ran her first marathon in 2015. Samantha qualified for the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trial in Los Angeles and finished 2016 as a top-25 US marathoner. Unfortunately she didn’t qualify for the Olympics, but that race doesn’t define her accomplishments. The events during her very first marathon in Toledo provide great insight as to why she is so successful as an athlete and now as a coach.

At about mile 21 of the 2015 Toledo Marathon, Samantha and the lead male were some distance ahead of the rest of the pack. When they reached a critical junction on the marathon course, race officials directed them to turn right—but that was wrong. Inexplicably, the race officials had provided the wrong directions and now the two of them were off the course and losing time. They ran about a half mile when they realized it was the wrong way! In tandem, they turned and sprinted back to the real race. In the meantime, a number of other competitors had received the correct directions and were now leading the race. When asked later about her thoughts when they realized they had received the errant direction, Samantha said, “I ran as hard as she could … I was over 22 miles into the race—and I wasn’t willing to give up at that point.” After returning to the ‘official’ course, she eventually regained the lead and won the women’s race…all 27.2 miles of it in record breaking time.

Samantha’s attitude and resolve in this race provides us with a great lesson of perseverance in the face of adversity. As carefully as we might plan and prepare to provide all the best things for our students, staff, and communities, we can’t always control what might happen–either good or bad. Our focus should always be about being prepared for that proverbial fork in the road, or those inevitable circumstances that are out of our control. What counts most is how we respond to those moments of adversity. Those actions have the power to define each of us. Sometimes all we can do is accept the situation and work as hard as we can to rectify the issue, like Samantha at mile 21 of a marathon.

In an article published after the race, Samantha shared a quote that serves as her inspiration. I believe it embodies her triumphant spirit–and it can ring true for those in leadership positions.

“Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose.” –G.K. Nelson.

Finish strong, succeed on purpose, and make it a memorable school year for all. Please know that it has been an honor serving as your president this year. Thank you so much for the opportunity! Have a great summer.

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