November 1, 2023, was the Mission Valley League Finals for the Marshall Fundamental Cross Country Team. Many student-athlete runners completed their race with personal records held. A student named Maya Diaz is on the team.
By Jim Sparks
Maya has special needs and runs accompanied by her incredibly caring aunt. On the day of the race, Maya suited up to run in the Girls Junior Varsity Cross Country race. Slow and steady she (and her Aunt, Marjorie Diaz) worked her way through the three miles. The hot pavement and the hills didn’t stop her. She kept moving forward.
Near the end of the race, the course offers one last hill around a blind corner. When she turned the corner to go up the hill, the entire cross-country team, her teammates, lined the hill. They stood on both sides of the sidewalk with their arms in the air, hands waving quietly, with softly spoken encouragement as she headed up the hill. The finish line was not too far.
Once she passed the team they all ran down to the finish line and lined the last part of the course, with waving hands in the air. It was a moving experience. Her time was around 1hr 18min. She was about to set a PR (Personal Record). That’s the lone goal in cross country. Each of our Marshall Eagles knew how important that was to her. So they modeled what it means to be a teammate to all in front of the whole Mission Valley League.
What did Maya have to say? She kept repeating “I’m happy!” Maya got the same attention as the top finishers that day. With the sport of Cross Country, everyone is there to better themselves. Lots of takeaways from that moment.
Marshall had a rough go a couple of weeks ago. I knew it wouldn’t take long to see the real Marshall stand out. Know that our school has a large population of kind and caring kids. Kids that are included and kids that are cheering each other on to better themselves. It’s not limited to this sport.
I like to thank Principal Lori Touloumian for her support of the program and certainly thanks to Coach Stephen Kooshian for building this type of culture. Below is a picture of the final stretch.
Jim Sparks is the father of three Marshall Fundamental students grades 7th, 9th, and 12th. Both of his high school students are on the cross-country team. He is the Territorial Director of Youth Ministries at The Salvation Army.
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