The first time I saw her was back in 2000 at the Olympic Trials in Sacramento. She made an impression for two reasons. For starters, she was white and that always stands out. She also was wearing her own random clothes to compete in. Seriously, who does that?! 🙂 I always try to learn from the best and I guess if I’m figuring out how long I’ve been learning from her it would have to start there. Over the past 9 years she has been my competition, my training partner, and most importantly, my friend. This happens to be an extremely difficult trio of attributes for one person to possess in our line of work. Your competition can at times be successful training partners but rarely can you say that outside of the realm of athletics, you would consider those people true friends. Grace is definitely that to me.
A relationship like ours is a tricky balance of a constant desire to be the very best, embedded in the competitors that we naturally are, and at the same time wanting success for the people you care about and who you know deserve it. I’d like to say that we’ve gone back and forth with our successes in the long jump pit over the years, but that really wouldn’t be accurate. She has made every U.S. team since 2003, and I obviously have not. In terms of success, she has me beaten by a mile. This random girl I first saw back in 2000, who’s name I had never heard of and who’s accomplishments up to that point had been pretty much non-existent, has become the most accomplished long jumper of the last six years. As a competitor and training partner I see what she’s done and I am inspired and perhaps even slightly envious in a non-resentful way, but as her friend I have always proud. Her career has been one of consistency and resilience and I know that she has earned every ounce of success that has come her way.
Today Grace left me to head back to the states and begin the next phase of her life, one that does not seem to include jumping in sand anymore. For slightly selfish reasons, this makes me extremely sad. Before she left though, she spent the last couple of weeks being my friend by being my training partner. This happened to be the first time in six years Grace did not make the team and the most unfortunate part was that she totally should have. But being the kind of friend she is, after her last meet was over and her career had effectively been put to rest, she stayed in Europe and laced up her shoes every day to do my workouts and support me. If that is not a true friend, I don’t know what is. In fact, if there was a way for me to sum up her character, that story alone would say enough.
Grace, this blog is for you because you know by now that I am far better at blogging then I am saying things face to face. The fact that I am still competing is because of you and your forcefulness and I owe you for that alone. Thank you for everything…for the things you did knowingly and for all the things you did that you never realized had an impact. As an athlete you know me probably as good as anyone and you have always made sure that I continued to believe in myself and my abilities. I will miss your words advice, your opinions on everything regardless if its asked for, your ridiculously heavy breathing when we aren’t even working out, and your unparalleled ability to get people to do things your way. Thank you for being a great training partner (even when you wouldn’t run 120’s with me), a great listener and advice giver, a great shopping buddy who can always convince me to buy, a perfect person to try my sarcastic humor on, and if I haven’t mentioned this already, a truly amazing friend. Our friendship goes far beyond the runway and I know that we will continue to bond in the years to come. I will miss you out on the track every day but I know there is a 5k or half marathon that is calling your name!