When asked to write a reflection about my time as a Babson athlete, I struggled to decide on what part of my career to focus on. There are so many amazing things I took from my time on the cross country and track teams, but when it all boils down there is one attribute that I am thankful for above all else: grit.
Growing up, the idea of grit and hard work were engrained into my head from multiple channels but I was never really pushed to act on them, until Babson gave me that opportunity. Being raised in a military family was never overly strict like one might imagine, but it taught me the importance of teamwork and hard work. My father was deployed multiple times throughout my childhood, (involuntarily) leaving my mother alone to tend to us three young children. This taught me early that life is inherently unfair, but the only way through hard times is straight though; head down, until it's over. This is how quotes like teamwork makes the dream work, and embrace the suck became staples in the Dynan household.
Later, when I decided to join the track team at Reading Memorial High School, I was fortunate enough to be coached by the legendary Hal Croft, a Vietnam veteran who was famous for coaching the Reading team to 29 years without losing a dual meet. Mr. Croft further enhanced my education of the grit mindset with practices like never wishing anybody luck before a race, he would say I would wish you luck, but we don't need luck. We just need to execute. Or, when an athlete would complain about running in the rain, he would say A wet man fears no rain. Looking back, I find even more meaning in that quote: if you dive into challenges headfirst and accept them for what they are, there is nothing to fear. Mr. Croft did not care about odds or fairness; he taught us that with hard work and a winning mindset, one could never really lose.
My time at Babson is where I gained the most grit of all. I was able to watch the personification of all of the lessons I learned growing up in the form of my coaches and teammates. One teammate came back from hip surgery to become an integral part of the 4x400m relay later that season, another snapped his femur before the season started and, with hard work and pure grit, defied the odds to run the 200m at his final NEWMAC Championship meet a few months later. I trained side by side with the program's first All-American, who ended up beating some of the best runners in the United States, despite the fact that nobody besides us believed that he could do it. These are the people who set the standard for me. I felt that giving anything less than everything I had to this sport would be insulting to them and what they had worked for. Being a part of this program taught me that there are no excuses, if you want something bad enough it is up to you to go get it. There is no finesse, no glory in running. If you want to be fast, run more miles. If you're getting tired, suck it up. If you set a goal for yourself, you do whatever you can to reach it: no excuses. That is what grit is, and there are no better sports for grit than cross country and track.
Cross country and track are unique sports in the sense that there is absolutely no luck involved. There is no lucky bounce, no bad call by the ref, and no politics; it is only hard work and, you guessed it, grit. A foot race is nothing more than pure competition and, when all of the training is done it comes down to who wants it the most. Luckily, I always found it easy to race with a chip on my shoulder on the Babson team. From having much smaller numbers than our competition to consistently being ranked last in preseason polls, every time I lined up on the track I was out to prove a point. I was always David out to slay Goliath, always trying to make every person who doubted us feel foolish, and always knowing confidently that I would push myself further than anybody else would around that 400m oval.
While I was certainly not successful in every race I ran (failing more than a few times), I never strayed from the path on which I had set out. If I was not running well, it was all about keeping my nose to the grindstone and working through the failure until it became success, no matter what. All of the success I have had to this point is thanks to the people who have taught me valuable lessons of grit and hard work, specifically my Babson coaches and teammates. This is not a sport for the faint of heart, and without these people, I would have never gotten through the failures that had tested my will by densely intertwining themselves with my successes.
Just weeks away from graduation, grit and hard work have now become a part of who I am. While, for years, they allowed me to chase athletic goals with tunnel vision, I now have the skills to chase any goal fearlessly, and the mindset to stare down any challenge that comes my way with the confidence that I will get through it.
That is what I gained from my time at Babson and what I will take with me wherever I go next, and it is all thanks to the people I surrounded myself with here that taught me I can do anything I set out to do, as long as I have a whole lot of grit.