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Cross country selfless act


To the Editor:

My daughter crossed the finish line today for the last time as a senior Grosse Pointe North cross country runner. She crossed the finish line in last place, as she often has the last four years, but this time with a smile on her face as she felt the joy of earning her varsity letter.

She was very proud and very excited as her teammates, coaches and family greeted her with hugs, tears and congratulations. It was an amazing moment and there are no words to express the emotion and the gratitude I felt as she competed and completed her goal.

It was a fairy-tale ending because of the special people involved in cross country who have helped to support and encourage Bethany the last four seasons.

It was coach Scott Cooper who first took the time to reach out to Bethany and encourage her to be part of the team. He urged her to participate, even if she did not want to run. He offered to have her be the "water girl."

In a short time, early in her freshman year, with coaxing from Cooper, coach Kate Calabresa and coach Christina Sweeney, Bethany began to actually run. Coach Cooper kept close tabs on her. He encouraged her and challenged her with new goals and helped her to focus on her improving ability.

All three coaches have taken the time to build a personal relationship with Bethany. They have been positive and patient with her, making her feel important, valuable and special. Because of them, she has persisted.

Cooper also encourages all of the girls to participate in his team policy of being at the finish line to cheer on each team finisher. Whether you are in the top 20 finishers, or finish in the middle of the team of 100 girls, you are to "be there" for every girl who crosses the finish line.

In a recent Grosse Pointe News article, "North sophomore sets course record in girls cross country" (Oct. 21, Grosse Pointe News) coach Scott Cooper talked about his team, their efforts, and Maria Feldpausch. In referring to the senior invitational run he said, "One of the great stories of this race was the selfless act by Maria Feldpausch. Instead of working toward her own time goal that would ultimately earn her a varsity letter, she chose to run slower with another runner to encourage her to go faster and earn her varsity letter. It didn't happen in this race, but that didn't take away from the effort shown by both athletes."

Maria ran with my daughter Bethany that day and I want Maria to know how much her "selfless act" touched my heart. It was a wonderful thing for her to do, but it wasn't the first time she had shown kindness, compassion, and a caring spirit. Maria has reached out to Bethany throughout the season, giving her rides, support and positive encouragement.

Maria's selfless act is, in fact, exactly why my daughter has hung in there, running races that she never imagined she could run, persevering and finishing races that were difficult, exhausting, bug-filled, windy and cold. Bethany has run because girls like Maria cared enough about her to sacrifice their own personal interests to help make her feel part of the team.

After the district meet last weekend I asked Bethany why she ran. She said, "I run for the team, mom." She runs because she "loves her team" not because she loves to run. And it is "her team," led by three incredible coaches, that surrounded Maria and Bethany as they came down the homestretch of the senior invitational run bringing them across the finish line with cheers and shouts and hugs and kind words. And so it has gone for four seasons of running and so she has run!

It has been a pleasure being a parent of a Grosse Pointe North cross country runner for the last four years.

I want to thank the coaches, team captains, team members and parents for sharing in such a wonderful experience with my daughter.

Twenty years from now I may not remember the race statistics or the finish time, but I will always remember them and how they have touched our lives.

Lori VandeVorde

Grosse Pointe Woods

Lori VandeVorde
Grosse Pointe Woods
November 10, 2004

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