Working for a family organization I’ve developed the keen ability to discover a story in the news that impacts families. It’s as if I have a new sense that makes my ears perk up at the mention of the word.
But this weekend, I didn’t have to try at all. Even someone without this odd skill of mine would have seen the theme of family play out at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
As a former collegiate cross-country and track runner, my love for running and the running community remains strong. I still follow all kinds of races and runners, whether it’s collegiate track and field events, professional marathoners, or a competitive high school race – to me it’s all entertaining and inspiring.
While some may say it’s less exciting than other sports, I’m on the edge of my seat watching competitors battle for every inch of a race. And I’m amazed watching people fine tune the human body to accomplish things that have never been done before.
In between tending to my own family, this weekend I sat down to watch a few races. So, imagine my delight when I began to see these top competitors acknowledge their families.
One of the most decorated and admired modern day track competitors, Allyson Felix, sat with her two-year-old daughter on the track following her second place 400-meter Olympic qualifying race. This will mark her fifth Olympic Games, but her first one as a mother. During the birth of her daughter, Felix had a complex delivery in which both her and her daughter’s life were at risk, so it was an incredible moment to see the two celebrating this accomplishment.
Soon, her Olympic teammate and first place finisher, Quanera Hayes, followed suit and welcomed her son onto the track. The two moms who just qualified for the Olympics crouched for a few minutes watching their children interact and enjoyed the moment with them.
After the race, Felix told reporters, “Society tells us a lot of times that if you have a child your best moments are behind you. But that’s absolutely not the case. I am representation of that. Quanera is. There are so many women across industries who are out here, who are doing it and getting it done. I hope they watch and they see that it’s possible.”
The strength of the family unit was on full display. Two moms competing their hearts out one minute and celebrating their victory with their kids the next. What a great reminder that children do not diminish your ability to accomplish the tasks God has planned for you. In fact, they enhance the whole experience.
Later, the decathlon winner Garrett Scantling jumped the bleachers to give his father an emotional hug on Father’s Day.
After just missing qualifying for the last Olympic games in 2016, Scantling didn’t compete for a few years and even considered not returning to the track. Fans like me are sure glad he came out of retirement. His dominant performance was capped only by the sweet display of the love and support of a father.
My husband and I were cheering hard for Keni Harrison during the 100-meter hurdles because we knew it was her turn. Although she was a favorite for the Olympic team back in 2016, and had just broken the American record, she didn’t finish within the top three spots needed to secure her spot on the team. She didn’t let that experience steal her edge, however, and two weeks later she went out and broke the world record.
But this year, she won. Her first-place finish means her career will soon include an Olympic competition.
Harrison is one of 11 children and grew up in North Carolina. Her family is well known for representing her at meets in “Keni Crew” t-shirts or neon colors and taking up a large section of the crowd.
Shots of her family celebrating after her win brought back memories of my own boisterous family cheering me on at meets. Anyone who’s supported a family member in a competitive sport knows the excitement and emotions that come from watching someone you love give their best effort in front of a crowd. And anyone who’s competed behind the chants and encouragement of those who love you most understands how reassuring and motivating it is to know those people have your back no matter the outcome.
I’m proud so many of the elite performers of the sport I love understand the power and importance of the family unit.
Because if we’re being honest, we’ve all been mightily influenced by family. Whether for good or for bad, through hurt or through love, these relationships have impacted the trajectory of our lives. We see this truth play out every day, but it’s worth pausing to reflect on. Family is more than a group of people; it’s a bond that’s unconditional and a relationship that motivates people to do some of the most amazing things in history.
The only thing better than seeing these athletes humbly recognize the impact their families have had on their running success was seeing multiple athletes credit their savior Jesus Christ. After all, what would a family’s unconditional love look like if not to mirror the grace of our good Father.
Photo from Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services, LLC/REUTERS