Track athlete’s disappointment should not deter from great season
On the front and back pages of this edition of the Tribune are pictures of absolute joy and disbelief.
The photographs of Savannah Anderson and Marcy Uglum capture the “thrill of victory” that makes high school sports — OK, sports of any kind — so much fun to cover.
Both New Hampton high jumpers had been so close to clearing 5 feet this year, yet, until Thursday night at the state qualifying meet in Osage, they had been stuck at 4-10. It was almost as if there was an impenetrable barrier in front of these two seniors.
Thursday, they crashed through the barrier, or maybe a better way to put it is that they jumped over it.
To see their reactions is one reason I love my job, one reason I would have been in Osage even if I didn’t have two sons competing in the land of the Green Devils.
But this isn’t a column about the absolute jubilation I saw in their faces or heard in their voices; no, this is a column about the other side of the sports equation — “the agony of defeat.”
Up until those high jumpers finally broke through, the story of the year when it came to New Hampton track and field was a junior boy named Evan Gossling.
He appeared to come out of nowhere this year, especially in his favorite race, the 400 low hurdles. The gangly freshman of two years ago had become a budding track star.
“Evan, he’s the best story on this team,” senior Shane Burke said earlier in the season, “and it’s not even close.”
Not only did Gossling appear to be headed to the state meet in the hurdles, but he had become a key contributor to the Chickasaws’ 4x200 and 4x400 relays, two quartets that had viable chances at state.
And then Thursday happened.
The 4x200 finished fifth. Gossling struggled in the hurdles and finished sixth in a time of 59.03 seconds, almost two seconds slower than his career best time. And the 4x400 took fourth in a time of 1:35.11.
And just like that, a season with so much promise came to a crashing end.
Sure, there were still eight at-large qualifiers that would be announced on Friday, but deep down, Gossling had to know he wasn’t competing at state. The times just weren’t good enough.
I know the devastation, know it by heart actually, the devastation that comes with not making state. A year ago, my son Noah threw the discus 144-2 at the state qualifying meet, finished third and was the last athlete left at home.
And my gut — and Evan’s teammates — tell me that Gossling was devastated by what took place Thursday.
The point of this column, however, is not to harp on what went wrong Thursday and the aftermath; instead, it is to laud a kid who has come so far in such a relatively short amount of time.
As a freshman, he ran the 400 low hurdles in a very pedestrian 1:06.34. A year ago, his best run was 1:01.75. Yet, this year, heading into the state qualifying meet, he was among the top 20 400 hurdles in all of the state.
With great expectations come bitter disappointments, but I hope Evan Gossling realizes what an inspiration he has been to both his teammates and old guys like me.
If it came to work ethic and preparation, no one would beat him.
He lifted, he ran, he worked out … he turned himself into a budding track star.
Thursday wasn’t his night, but what happened on that track in Osage should not take away from his story. That’s sports, sometimes. That’s life, too. Sometimes all the work doesn’t pay immediate dividends.
But the true testament to a person’s character, I believe, is how they respond when something does not go as planned.
Years ago, I coached little Evan Gossling in baseball, and what I remember about that third-grader is that he was not the most talented kid on the diamond but he always gave me as his coach and his teammates everything he had.
My hope beyond hope is that I will get a chance to write the Evan “redemption story” in the spring of 2019, but even if I don’t, what he accomplished this year through sheer hard work will remain with this old writer for as long as he sits down at a keyboard.