It all started in 8th grade when my coach at the time Coach Roller threw me into a race I had never once before tried, the 400 meter. Me, being the scrawny, nonathletic-looking kid that was mainly a distance runner from a small country town of Braselton In (Jackson County Ga) not very known for track and field was about to embark on a great journey that would change my life forever.
It was the middle school state meet and after a few races I qualified for the finals running a 55 second 400 meter. I remember being the only one from my track team at the meet. I wasn’t even running for my middle school (West Jackson Middle) I was running for a rec track club that just so happened to be connected to Jackson county sports. I remember warming up on the field and seeing all these athletes from big schools that I had heard of (Parkview, Grayson, Mill Creek). This being my first ever big track meet ever I was beyond nervous, I honestly didn’t even want to step on the line.
After a few encouraging words from my dad, I was ready to race. Me having the slowest time in the finals got the worst possible lane, lane 8. The problem with lane 8 is you can’t see anyone but everyone can see you. You pretty much have to as the track world calls it “run scared” which meant that I was the jack rabbit, and everyone else was trying to chase me. I ended up coming in last place that meet but I remember how it felt, how the crowd was cheering and everyone was so excited and pumped up. I remember barely being able to stand because the 400 meter is a race that can wear you out.
My freshman year of high school came and I had bulked up a little more from middle school, because I also played football for my high school (Jackson County). This is when my life would change forever. It was a Wednesday and it was very rainy the football field was pretty much underwater but our football coaches being football coaches still made us practice. Because what can a little rain do to a person? We ended up doing inside runs. Inside runs is where the scout team running back (which was me) would run through a gap in the O-line for multiple plays and the defense would come and knock the crud out of me.
There was one play in particular that coach called. Our defensive coach at the time called an all out blitz. I took the ball from my quarterback and next thing I knew the O-line collapsed and I was under a dog pile of defensive linemen, I also felt a crack and started yelling. I laid there in the muddy, rainy, cold weather with my face mask covered in grass. I remember trying to stand up because i thought it was just a minor injury but it turned out to be worse. I had broken my ankle through the growth plate and also had cracked my tibia and fibula. I then proceeded to go to the hospital and I remember my mom coming in crying her eyes out. Nobody likes to see their mom crying so I told her I was fine, even though my ankle was turned completely backwards and my leg felt like it was about to fall off. The Dr. came into the room before my surgery and told me everything from “one leg might be longer than the other”, “you might not be as fast as you once were”, etc. I started to think for a moment, I asked myself “Is this it?” I questioned what I would do if I wasn’t an athlete. I had always been an athlete that is all I’d ever known.
After a long agonizing 18 week process of my leg healing, and many hours of physical therapy I was able to walk on my own two feet again. It was also just in time for track season! My freshman year of track was a special one. My season started out pretty rough after my ankle healed I started to slowly but surely train with my team. I then after a few weeks of training got tendinitis in my ankle which put me out for another 2 week span. After those 2 weeks, I returned to the track and would go on to run 51 seconds in the 400 meter and place at region. It was a special year because I had broken the 400 meter record for my school, which was 52 seconds. Like i said before my school was never known for track and field so me breaking a track and field record set the tone for me and how great I wanted to be.
My sophomore year of high school wasn’t any better. I started to lose weight drastically and I began to throw up non-stop everyday for a month. I then decided it was time to go get myself checked out. After seeing a Dr. I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland controls many things in the body (blood pressure, metabolism, heart rate, etc). So this was another serious mountain of adversity that appeared in my life. After I got diagnosed I was given pills to help regulate my thyroid. This meant I could start eating again, and could actually hold food and drinks down.
My sophomore year of track was amazing because at my 1st track meet of the year I had achieved my goal that I had set for myself. I ran 49.9 seconds in the 400 meter which meant I broke the 50 barrier something i had been trying to do since the end of my freshman year. From that point on I knew that I was capable of much more than I originally thought. I then went on to place 3rd in the 400 meter at regions. I had qualified for sectionals that year as well, which meant I would be running with the big dogs in the state. When sectionals came I was very nervous this would be the biggest track meet that I had ever ran in. As I rounded the last curve of the 400 meter in my heat my foot began to hurt so I slowed down and finished 5th In my heat. I was devastated but I was beyond proud of all that I had accomplished that year. I promised myself that when I became a junior I would make it to state.
My junior year of high school would be one to remember when it came to literally having nothing that went wrong in my life that year physically all the way up to track season. Early in the year though, my Granddad George Story who had Parkinson and dementia passed away. I was emotionally unstable for a couple of days because my granddad meant so much to me. It was the first major loss of a family member in my life and my emotions were everywhere. I continued to ask myself what I would do after high school what would I be when this was all over, when I wasn’t an athlete who competed in a sport, but when I would become a former athlete who competed in the real world. Track and field was all I had going for me because to be honest I’m not the best student. I went on to run 48.7 In the state final and becoming the state-runner up behind one of the best 400 meter guys in the nation. I had broken the 49 second barrier and this is when I finally knew that if I went to college for anything It would be to run track and not play football. I lost interest in football my junior year as well I had played the sport since I was 6 but knew that I wanted to focus primarily on Track and field.
My senior year came around and I had nothing go really bad physically or emotionally that year and it was probably one of the greatest years I had in a long long time. I finally ran low 48s that year and wanted to break the 48 mark. I began training super hard and really pushing myself at practice. There were two things that emotionally went wrong that year, the first being my dog of 16 years max had passed away due to old age, and I also experienced my first real heartbreak, but hey there are plenty of other fish in the sea. I then went on to make it to the state championships again and I came state-runner up again for a second consecutive year in the Georgia State Championship 3AAA. I was beyond proud of myself and by that time i had signed with Savannah State University to continue my track career at the next level.
My freshman year of college was crazy due to my hyperthyroidism I couldn’t run all summer mainly because the Dr. said it would put to much pressure on my heart so when i finally got to the university, I was majorly out of shape and the absolute worst one on the team. I remember my coach at the time making me run cross country to get in shape.
I went from being the worst on the cross country/Track team to one of the best. When track season came along I worked even harder I went on to achieve many victories and placed 6th In the MEAC championships in the 400 meter as a freshman. I also won the most outstanding sprinter award at our sports banquet. I also ran the best time I had ever ran 47.1 and was on the verge of hitting 46 seconds in the 400 meter. From my 8th grade year to my 1st year of college i had dropped my 400 meter time by almost 9 seconds. I knew I could run lower and would continue to train over the summer.
My two parents my mother Cynthia Woodring and Father Kevin Woodring picked me up on the last day of college to take me home. My parents had just moved to North Carolina so we spent a while in the car going from Savannah, Georgia to Murphy, North Carolina. We had long talks and sang songs and everything else you’d expect to happen on a long car ride we did. That night we got to my grandmas house my mom said she needed to use the restroom, after many minutes past my grandma went to go check on her. After my grandma found my mother face down on the floor, she proceeded to call out my name and tell me what had happened, I proceeded to the bathroom and began CPR and my dad began to attempt chest compression but it was no good as I looked into the women who held such a special place in my heart, I knew the lord had taken her home. I was traumatized and devastated the amount of hurt and emotional agonizing pain that I was feeling was unimaginable.
We then found out that my mother had suffered a massive heart attacked and passed away instantly. Knowing this it put me at somewhat of an ease knowing she didn’t suffer. I made a big decision that I didn’t want to go back to Savannah State University. I wanted to find a college near by so I could take care of my dad and grandma if needed. I didn’t care about track anymore honestly I either just wanted to get a degree from some community college or local university, enter the workforce, or join the military. I asked for a release but my coach at Savannah State University didn’t release me right away. Later in July my coach finally released me and luckily one of my friends who goes to Shorter University contacted me about running for Shorter. I took him up on the offer and now I’m spending the rest of my college track and field career at Shorter University as a Criminal Justice major.
I have been blessed beyond measure and I guess the moral of my story is to never give up. No matter how bad things get physically or emotionally you can’t give up. Because as athletes we are competitors we cannot lay down in defeat we have to keep going we have to keep pushing harder in life. In my case after facing so much adversity and going through some life changing events, I ran harder when life started to get painful I kept running I kept pushing myself I.. ran through the pain. Because now I know that when I do enter the real world and life starts to get painful I’ll keep running and keep pushing myself because I know that there are greater things to come and the reward is worth running through the pain. Just like in a 400 meter or in any race we have to push harder and run when we get uncomfortable. This is my story.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”