We Are So Proud...

Three years ago, Warrior Cross Country had wonderfully unique 6th grader Aiden Baker join the team.  Aiden is a student in a skill builder classroom housed in our building, and faces many daily challenges. He had the challenge of participating on a team and running the miles it takes to participate on a middle school cross country team. Aiden began his first year running with a tethered guide for practices and meets, but as an 8th grader, he is now able to run with a buddy runner untethered, guiding him along the course route. 

Aiden’s teammates readily accepted him, and included him in all aspects of being on a team. Aiden’s relationship with his teammates and his noticeable efforts at meets drew support. Pekin Coach Jake Norman noticed Aiden at his first meet and pointed out to his team the inclusiveness of Aiden running and how it embodied the spirit of cross country running. (Coach Norman and I have known each other for several years and we discuss frequently how Cross Country is a road map for life. Cross Country teaches hard work, persistence, commitment, teamwork, and inclusiveness.) 

Pekin Middle School Cross Country has also embraced Aiden’s effort from the first meet through his current 8th grade season. Pekin Cross Country runners have taken every opportunity these three years, along the sidelines of the two mile courses, to cheer Aiden on with verbal and running support. Aiden looks forward to greeting Coach Norman and his Pekin Cross Country friends at our shared meets.

Pekin runners once asked to be able to run with Aiden at a meet as his buddy runners. The opportunity presented itself at the Detweiller Meet in Aiden’s 6th grade year. Coach Norman’s team were grouped and ran with Aiden in quarter mile increments. Pekin embraced Aiden as a Dragon teammate, presenting him with a PJHS XC team shirt. 

Now here we are at present day, at the Pekin Mini-Illini Invitational. Coach Norman added a new dimension to his cross country program, the  “Mini Illini XCellence Award”. Coach Norman, his assistant coaches, and the team decided to award Aiden as the first recipient of this award. The Pekin Dragon XC runners also wrote personal notes to Aiden. 

This story is being shared to point out what is incredibly right about our youth participating in extracurricular activities embracing these character strengths. What a great example of "team"; this display of caring for the human spirit, supporting those who have to work extra hard everyday for the tasks we often take for granted, and exemplifying life's core values and respect of others.

Respectfully shared,

Jan Marks, Germantown Hills Warriors Cross Country Coach