It is also mind boggling to see high school athletes decide not to perform at the height of their skill levels.
Both situations came sharply into focus in a three-day span last week while covering the U.P. golf and track finals in Menominee, Manistique and Kingsford.
A variety of athletes turned in excellent performances, such as Marquette High School freshman Carley Saint-Onge and Negaunee senior Dave Ellis in golf, Big Bay de Noc freshman Erin Holmberg and the entire Gladstone boys team in track.
They, along with many others, shook off the pressure of the moment with tremendous efforts to either win U.P. titles or record personal bests. Many of the track athletes collapsed at the finish line, completely spent.
One of those was Jake Isaacson of Menominee, who nearly decided not to run the 3200-meter race because he was sick. He had already won a gold medal in the 1600, so quitting would have been easy to do.
Isaacson gutted it out and ended up winning the 3200 by 13 seconds, before leaving the track to get rid of what was left.
“I wasn’t going to quit, but I thought I’d drop,” Isaacson told Tom Kaeser of the Marinette Eagle-Herald.
That is the way most athletes compete, giving it their all in victory or defeat.
Unfortunately, that was not the scenario at Manistique Indian Lake Golf and Country Club May 30 at the D-3 girls golf finals.
Three teams pulled out and 13 other girls walked off the course because of the weather. It rained through the opening three-plus hours, and by the time it quit all the players were drenched but most found the resolve to keep going.
Much credit goes to those players who stuck it out in difficult conditions, and they were all congratulated by Manistique athletic director Rob Ryan for their perseverance.
The conditions were difficult, no question about it. But they were not life threatening and there was no lightning. If you’re a golfer, you’ve definitely played in worse conditions, and then it was probably more for fun than in a championship setting.
The weather was more fit for ducks, but most of the girls stuck it out. Senior Lori Benson of Carney-Nadeau, who was never in title contention, was one of them.
Admitting it was the worst weather she had ever faced in golf, Benson said “it was hard to keep going. I just wanted to prove something. Twenty years from now it won’t matter how cold I was, just that I didn’t quit.”
Cedarville coach Sonja Duncan also addressed the issue while trying to warm up later. “One of those things you teach as a coach is not to quit,” she said.
Fortunately most athletes chose to keep going, and that desire and attitude led them to accomplish great things at the track and golf finals, whether they finished first or last. As any marathon runner will tell you, the goal is to finish.