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Staying on track

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Paige Bodine running during a cross country meet, courtesy photo

By Paige Bodine

We competed during a global pandemic. I was a bundle of emotions. Excited, nervous, and mostly thrilled that I could have my last chance to run on a team. My name is Paige, and I am a sophomore at Grand Rapids Community College. I have been running cross country competitively ever since 7th grade.

 My love of running started at a very young age. My dad, a Penn State cross country and track athlete had always been training other athletes and was consistently working out and competing in marathons, ironmans, and triathlons ever since I was born. As I started to run in middle school and high school, I realized that I was not especially amazing at running. What was important to me though was that I enjoyed the sport and seeing how hard I could push myself. Or at least that was what I kept on reminding myself. 

In high school, I was on the same team as my sister. Starting my junior year, my sister was a freshman on the team. She was an outstanding runner and quickly became one of the top runners on the team and in the state. I was so happy for her and her accomplishments, but it was a challenge to not compare myself to her, especially when others would compare us. I’ve had people ask me how it felt that my younger sister could beat me in a race.  People have even called me “Bodine 1.0.” These comments hurt, and I tried to block them out of my head. Flashforward a couple of years, and I decided to run collegiately for GRCC. I was excited to be on a smaller team and have a new start. Freshman year brought new friendships and a chance to compete at the national level. It was an unreal opportunity. 

Flashback to the era of the coronavirus. In March, the cross country team was meeting three times a week to go on runs together. Every day we would finish up in the weight room where the news was always playing on the TVs. One day, all of them changed to breaking news about minimal cases of COVID-19 in California. California felt so distant and far away from Grand Rapids. It felt as though it wasn’t even real. Sure enough, a couple of days later, the first COVID case was identified in Michigan. Suddenly, I was hit with anxiety. I had been going to class, riding the city bus as my primary mode of transportation, running and hanging out with friends, and I worked at a nursing home with people who were extremely high risk. There were so many unknowns, and I was terrified of making people sick.

 Even though we could not practice as a team, we still occasionally zoomed. We had individual training plans to prepare us if we ended up having a season. Months passed and before I knew it was summer. Suddenly my phone buzzed. The NJCAA had decided that all fall sports would be moved to the spring except for cross country. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It felt like everything was canceled but somehow we would still have a season. On the first day of practice, we sat outside and were seriously lectured about how careful we needed to be as we started to practice with the GRCC logo on our shirts. 

As practices began we had to get our temperatures checked and answer questions to affirm that we did not have COVID. A picture of us social distancing and answering the questions was posted on GRCC’s Facebook. Immediately people started commenting about how wrong it was that we were practicing and how GRCC was putting us in danger. What they didn’t know was that we had all chosen to be there, not forced. Going to practice every day was the normalcy and friendship that I, and every other girl on the team, needed. 

GRCC’s Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Teams, courtesy photo of GRCC Communications Team Sabrina Edwards | The Collegiate Live

As the weeks went on, we began to make history. I had the honor of running on the varsity squad for the state championship where we won and qualified for nationals. Unfortunately, I did not have a good race. It was one of those instances that was so sad for me because I had been training so hard, but I was getting way too anxious during races which led to poor performances. I had always had low self-esteem about myself and my running ability. My coach made the executive decision to switch me and the alternate for who would be the seventh runner at nationals. Although I was sad, I decided that I needed to find the positives and be the best teammate. I was truly blessed to have such an amazing team and the opportunity to have a season and even be considered to be the seventh runner on a nationally ranked team. 

The girls on the team were and still are some of my closest friends. We ended up getting fourth place at nationals which is the highest place that our team has ever gotten in Raider history. I was super proud of my teammates. We had gone through the most uncertain, unreal season and with hard work and determination, we were able to make the most out of the craziness. In fact, in life things will not go according to plan which I have been reminded of that time and again. Through these disappointing, sad, and uncertain times having the right mindset and being motivated to make the most of the moment will lead to adventures, friendships, and even new hobbies that you never would have expected. So lace up those shoes, or roller skates and explore the great outdoors or start a novel or bake your grandma cookies and make today a day for the books.