The opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympics and Paralympics will be viewed by an estimated 4 billion people. Roughly 1 billion viewers for the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games means roughly 1 billion people could see me and my wife sporting the college colors… if only we had tickets.
Our question for this post comes from L.H.
L.H. writes, ‘Why McDaniel?’’ a question that lends itself to some of our school’s brochures, postcards, etc.
Thanks for the question, L.H. I will do my best to answer from both the perspective of the college community, as well as my position as coach of the swimming programs. But first, I must say that what I write is my opinion, based on my experience here at the ‘Thrill on the Hill’, and not necessarily the opinion of the college (I don’t want to lose the chance of those closing ceremony tickets).
So what makes McDaniel different? Why McDaniel?
When a high school senior is making the decision where to attend school, I think the final question comes down to, ‘what can this college do for me?’
Likewise, when a college is making the decision to admit a student, the final question comes down to, ‘what can this student do for the college?’
Here at McDaniel, I think we are progressive with that final question. The question we like to ask is, ‘what can WE accomplish TOGETHER?’
When I am asked that question from a prospective student-athlete, I like to keep my answer short.
Why McDaniel? We keep magic water in our pool.
Again, great question.
On to the topics of this post. First up, how do you pronounce Suzanne’s last name?
For those of you beating the heat on Independence Day, you probably found yourself watching ‘The Capitol Fourth’ program on the tube, looking to point out our favorite Olympian. Along with the performances of the National Symphony Orchestra, Matthew Broderick (Bueller…. Bueller… Bueller), and others, the program honored twelve Olympians and Paralympians, including Suzanne.
Apolo Anton Ohno, one of the greatest Olympians and a co-host of the program, was given the duty of announcing each of the athletes by name, as well as sharing their sport and hometown. Out of respect for one of the greats, I will have to say the heat must have played havoc on the equipment Apolo was using to read from. He reached Suzanne without too much difficulty, and had her first name out fine. But her last name, pronounced with four syllables, suddenly picked up twelve… and maybe a hyphen. I had to get up and check the rabbit ears on my t.v. to make sure we were still getting a good signal.
It was pretty hot that day, and I am positive the heat scrambled the feed to the teleprompter.
Stettinius, pronounced Ste-tin-ni-us. Easy as it looks.
Here is a great shot of the correction.
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy Pausch
Along the pathway to success, brick walls come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes you see them far down the road, and can prepare. But sometimes the brick walls drop down right in front of your next step.
There were walls along the way Suzanne knew she was going to face; keeping herself high enough in the world rankings, for one.
And then there were others that came out of nowhere.
In September of 2009, at the Shawan Downs Legacy Chase, Maiden Timber race Suzanne came face-to-face with what seemed an insurmountable brick wall. The horse in front of her fell at the third-to-last fence. The horse Suzanne was riding, aptly named Big Bad Joe, came in close to the jump. Making what she now realizes as a mistake, Suzanne got in front of her horse (she thought he was going to take off long). Big Bad Joe did a bad thing, and stopped. Suzanne kept going, over the horse, hitting her head and breaking the C1 vertebra of her neck.
For those who enjoy this type of video, here is the link to her accident (I have never watched), and a photo.
Months were spent in a brace, and a valuable lesson was learned. Never get in front of your horse.
Suzanne’s senior year in school saw a lot of training, but few competitions. A week after the conference championships, Suzanne headed to California for what was to be the first test of the work she had put in that year. The results were fantastic; her swimming time from the previous summer had dropped over twenty seconds. Matched with the other disciplines, which were already strong and constantly improving, qualifying for the Olympic team was becoming more than just a dream. It was becoming a foreseeable reality.
Not so fast. Later that spring, knowing she was riding one Sunday morning, I sent her a text to ask what time she planned to swim.
The reply ‘I am leaving the hospital. I broke my collarbone.’ While attempting to clear a 4’ hay bale, the horse ended up rolling over it, and Suzanne. Another brick wall.
The recovery for this injury included inserting a pin to help stabilize the bone, which would hopefully speed up the process. With Suzanne’s frame, and obvious lack of excess, the pin presented itself as a bump underneath her skin. It would move, hit a nerve, and send a painful reminder that it was still there. The doctor’s advice, ‘you are just going to have to deal with it’. Not the first time Suzanne had heard that.
Suzanne dealt with this setback the best she could, using the time away from being able to use her upper body to put more time into her running. What seemed a setback, actually helped pave the way for breakthroughs on the run.
This past summer, the final months of the Olympic qualifying period were stressful. Although Suzanne was in a great spot, she was not in a position to sit back and relax. Her top three scores had her in a position to earn a berth to the games, but she was still able to be caught by another American. The few remaining World Cup events had to be strong performances to hold her position.
During the fencing portion of a World Cup in Hungary, she ran into yet another brick wall. Suzanne was fencing incredibly well, but during a bout with an Egyptian competitor, Suzanne severely pulled her hamstring during a lunge. She was unable to continue the competition, and was forced to also pull out of the next World Cup, which was in Russia a week later. Although it didn’t close the door on making the Olympic team, it did open the door for others to pass her in the rankings, both domestically and internationally. One of the greatest frustrations for an athlete is finding themselves in a position where they cannot control the outcome. Suzanne was forced to spend the next weeks rehabbing her injury, and hoping the competitions she missed worked out in her favor.
In typical Suzanne fashion, she sent a video of her injury. Again, I never watched it.
Great athletes find their way over, around, or through brick walls.
So I hope you are enjoying the posts up to this point. I have a few things I would like you to take away from this one, for homework, so to speak.
- Give someone a high five, and say ‘Go Suzanne’. You can find someone you know, but it would be even better to find someone you don’t. This way, when you say ‘Go Suzanne’, the other person will be forced to ask ‘who is Suzanne?’, and you will be granted the opportunity to share her great story and increase her fan-base.
- Go to Suzanne’s facebook fram (that’s three words, friends+fan+family) page, and add a Good Luck, Go Get’em, or Kick some Ass message (knowing Suzanne, she’ll like this one best). Make sure you make note of where you coming from. For example: ‘From all of us at your favorite grocery store, we wish you the best of luck in London’, or even better ‘I’m the EMT who put the neck brace on you’. If you have already done so, feel free to do so again. Here is the link, http://www.facebook.com/mobileprotection#!/groups/383569455011942/
- In honor of the opening ceremonies next Friday, wear Red, White, and Blue. I will be posting again between now and then, but I want to give you a chance to pick out the best outfit.
- Send me your favorite Olympic memory. Or should I say second favorite Olympic memory… since Suzanne’s would be your first. We’ll post to the next entry. firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s go Suzanne,