Athlete Inspires Coach

Typically, coaches inspire athletes—helping to motivate and encourage them in their sport and in life. However, on September 12, cross country coach Krysten Parson (KP) was the one who was inspired and encouraged by the selfless giving of one of her athletes: senior Ali Hochstetler.

Last winter, Ali, who decided not to run competitively this year, convinced KP to run a half-marathon (13.1 miles) with her this fall. Actually, there wasn’t much convincing. KP is more than just a coach to her players, but also a mentor and friend who enjoys sharing life experiences with them. So even though she had never done much distance running herself, other than in conditioning for softball and basketball, she soon agreed. She says, “I have a hard time saying no to my players.”

After months of training KP felt prepared for the race and optimistic they could reach their goal of finishing together in under two hours. The race started well and over halfway through they were still on pace to reach their goal. But around the 9-mile marker that all changed. KP says, “I felt miserable—my legs felt like I was running in quick sand. I started to question why I was even running.” She knew she was holding Ali back and suggested that Ali go on ahead.

But Ali stuck by her side. KP says, “It was at this point in the race that I became inspired by my running partner. How easy would it have been for Ali to be on her own agenda and finish under our goal time? But to her, those things didn’t matter. I was her running buddy and she was going to sacrifice her time goal to finish the race with me.”

Ali set a new goal of 2:05:00 for them and encouraged KP all the way to the finish line. If Ali had gone on ahead, she would easily have met her goal, while KP would have walked and possibly dropped out. But she didn’t, and they met their new goal, finishing in 2:03:55—together.

Ali’s decision to stay with her coach, rather than pursue their time goal, didn’t seem like a big deal to her. Afterall, she had asked her coach to run this race with her as something they could do together. Leaving KP to finish on her own was not even an option in her mind.

However, to KP it was a big deal. She says, “What Ali did for me is not a typical quality of teenagers: willingly sacrificing her own agenda for me. In all my years as an athlete and now as a coach, I have rarely seen such a demonstration of selfless care. This is how Jesus lived his life every day and what Ali demonstrated to me that day.”

For a related story, see South Bend Tribune article.