The East Vision

A runner’s perspective

Anna VanderLaan, Staff Writer

Today, we face a challenge.

For the most part, the challenges we face as high schoolers aren’t unique to any generation; we know that students before us have dealt with rigorous classes and standardized tests. We’ve watched older siblings make tough decisions about their future and get in trouble for staying out past curfew. And we’ve seen countless high school movies that caricaturize the cliques and who-likes-who drama that teenagers relate to across the nation.

My point is that most of the things that concern us as high schoolers aren’t all that unprecedented. However, there isn’t a protocol to follow when a coach, a teacher, or a friend is accused of “inappropriate conduct involving former district students.” This is what makes the allegations against Coach Hopkins so poignant.

I’ve been running cross country for six years. I, along with my teammates, spent countless mornings and evenings training in the Summer, Fall, and Winter. We’re aware that people brand cross country as one of the few “cults” at East Grand Rapids; the bond we share from running together through rain, wind, and shine, blood, sweat, and tears is so incredibly strong that we can’t stand being apart in the off-season. And so we visited Hopkins’ classroom in the mornings and at lunch to do homework and catch up with one another.

I speak for my teammates and friends when I say that our heads are spinning. Personally, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions, specifically sadness, confusion, and frustration. I am deeply sad for my former coach Nick Hopkins, and even more sad for the strong woman or women who came forward. I am confused by the task at hand for many of us, as we are expected to continue our classes, our seasons, our lives, without closure. And I am frustrated for myself and my teammates that the plan for our upcoming seasons has suddenly been turned upside down. However, the emotion that is most important through all of this is acceptance. I don’t know as much of the truth as I would like, and I probably never will, but this is something that I must accept.

Suddenly, we are part of a greater movement. I applaud the strength and courage of anyone who stands up and speaks out against injustice. Women and men who come forward against harassment are forging a change that is so important for society today. However, at the same time, I am conflicted. Coach Hopkins was a role model, someone who taught me perseverance and the importance of success not only for myself, but for the team as well. I struggle to find a balance between these two opposing perspectives, and perhaps I never will.

Right now, however, all I ask for is respect. In no way have these recent events tainted my memories of cross country, and I expect to look back on my years of running at East Grand Rapids High School with pride. The best traditions don’t disappear, and as we all know, East Grand Rapids is a place rich with tradition. Despite hardships that may come our way, nothing will change the tradition of love and friendship that is the foundation of the EGR girls cross country team. We are strong, we are resilient, and most importantly, we are together. Run as One!

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A runner’s perspective