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Calli's Corner: local role models

Calli’s Corner is back! This biweekly column features lessons and fresh perspectives on local sports from The Sports Report’s Calli Newberry.

This fall I started recording The Sports Report Podcast, a weekly podcast with local athletes, coaches, and other sports fans in the area. It’s a lot of fun and I enjoy the conversations I get to have, especially with athletes. Recently, I’ve noticed a trend among a few of them.

I follow professional running more than any other sport, so much so that just last night my husband asked, “Who is the girl standing next to Elle [Purrier St. Pierre]?” The girl next to her was bent over and you could only see the top of her head, yet I knew it was Cory McGee.

So when I talk to other cross country runners like Lukas Kriesch from Yale or Ava Pergitone and Carter Boullard from St. Clair, I always ask them, “Who do you look up to in the running world?”

Strangely enough, they didn’t list professional runners like Grant Fisher or Emma Coburn. Instead, they talked about their teammates.

Lukas mentioned about his older teammates who’ve gone on to run at the college level and even Morgan Beadlescomb who graduated from Algonac and has since gone on to do incredibly well at Michigan State.

Ava talked about the St. Clair boys team and the depth that they have and her younger teammates who have taught her new things. And Carter talked about Sam Vitale, a St. Clair grad who is now running for his first year at Oakland University.

The runners that these current high school athletes are looking up to aren’t famous or world record holders or sponsored by the top brands. They’re the people of whom they’ve had a close-up view – their progress, their successes and failures, the way they train, the way they treat their teammates and coaches, and even the way they interact within the community.

I think it’s almost better to look at somebody locally. Sure, professional and famous athletes are more talented and more successful, but we also don’t know them. We don’t know what they’re like off the track or the field or the court. We might think we know them based on what we see on social media, but we don’t actually see how they handle a bad day of practice or the way they talk to a fifth grader after a game.

We’re not in close enough proximity to ask them questions or to personally cheer them on or to see the little details of their lives. We don’t have the opportunity for them to push us further than we thought we could go or hold us accountable we want to slack off. But that’s what teammates will do – especially the ones worth looking up to.

I was a little surprised at first when these athletes on the podcast didn’t list a professional runner, but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. Why not look up to the kids who are doing exactly what you do? Why not learn from a teammate you respect and aspire to be like?

And if these athletes are looking up to their teammates, there are other teammates likely looking up to them. As local athletes or even just people in the community, we ought to be aware of the people who might be looking up to us. We live in a small community with lots of little eyes watching. We might as well strive to be people worth watching.


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