After months of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, we were lucky to enjoy this year’s Summer Games.
It was great to see world-class athletes on the biggest stage competing in events for which they’ve trained their whole lives. Sure, the Games had a slightly different feel given the pandemic, but at least, for a few weeks, the spirit of competition and sportsmanship was alive and well.
Our local CHSAA track and field athletes found joy in seeing mainstream coverage of events that generally do not receive as much hype. The Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, track team especially enjoyed the Games, which were delayed for a year as a safety precaution.
“It was fantastic to see the Games take place,” said McClancy head boys’ and girls’ track and field coach Pat Civitano, who is also the school’s director of advancement. “The commitment level it takes to make it to the Olympic stage is unmatched. These athletes work so hard, and it’s great to see them rewarded.”
Given the events leading up to the Olympics, there was a time when we were unsure if the Games would occur. That would have been a tough break for many of the athletes since they have such a limited window to compete.
“There was a time when it seemed like the Olympics would no longer take place, and that made me very upset and nervous for the future of them,” said McClancy senior Stephen Heerey, a javelin thrower who is ranked in the top five in the Diocese of Brooklyn. “However, when I found out that they were taking place, I was very happy and looking forward to the Games.”
“It’s exciting because we get to see amazing athletes represent their countries, and they get to show off their hard work to the world,” said Crusaders rising senior Yamila Campuzano, a sprinter and long jumper who is part of the school record in the 4×100-meter relay. “They trained their whole lives for this moment, and even though they had to wait one more year due to COVID-19, it’s amazing to see that they were still given the opportunity to compete in the 2020 Olympics.”
Time will tell if these McClancy student-athletes have their dreams set on competing in the Olympics someday. Yet, in the present, they can learn a great deal from watching Olympians master their craft.
“To watch the Olympics, especially the track and field competitions, is exciting because I think it brings out another gear in all the competitors,” said McClancy team captain and distance runner Dean Butkiewicz, who ran a career-best 4:41 this past season in the 1600-meter. “Something to learn from Olympic athletes is that the hard work they put into training will pay off, maybe not in the short term or even in a few years but in the grand scheme of things.”
One main storyline of this year’s Olympics was gymnast Simone Biles withdrawing from several events due to her mental health. Biles is hands down the best gymnast in the world, yet even she felt the massive pressure brought on by competing in the Games as the gymnastics team leader.
“She (Biles) taught me that no matter how good you may be as an athlete physically, you must feel as good mentally and put how you feel first,” Campuzano said. “Instead of risking injury, she decided to put herself first and pulled out of the Games while cheering on the sidelines for her teammates. That decision was bigger than winning a gold medal because she shined on the topic of mental health and how important it is for every athlete.”
Mental health is vital for Olympic athletes, especially those who are at the top of their game. The same is true for high school student-athletes, who juggle practice and track meets with the rigors of their academic requirements. Being able to balance it all surely helps an athlete’s performance.
“Watching the Olympics motivates me to do my best because it’s one of those reminders that the things you do in life matter, whether that’s training for sports or bringing a good mindset to the track,” Butkiewicz said. “It’s admirable to see these Olympians compete on such a high level.”
With a strong mindset and their dedication to improving each day, these student-athletes have a bright future on the track. Excitement is already brewing for the fall cross-country season, followed by the indoor and outdoor seasons. Hopefully, diocesan high school sports return to as close as normal as possible this fall.
“Watching the Olympic athletes compete makes me feel like one day I too could compete,” Heerey said. “It shows me that nothing is impossible if you really try. These Games were so fun and a good source of happiness and light during these dark times.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.