It’s impossible not to feel grateful when reflecting on the ways my time at Oakland University has brought us closer together.
Not everybody gets a chance to attend a university. Even fewer are awarded the opportunity to compete in sports while doing so. And how many student-athletes are fortunate enough to have parents willing to travel to nearly every meet on the season schedule?
Words can’t describe how thankful I am, Dad, but I’ll try anyway.
Our relationship has always been so strong because you’ve always supported me in all of my endeavors. There was a time when I preferred kicking a soccer ball and putting a basketball through a hoop, even though we both knew my physical attributes were more suited for a non-contact sport.
But there was never any pressure to ditch the other sports. I could always count on you to be open and honest, while giving me the freedom to make my own decisions. And honestly, this freedom was so important for my own development.
Track may not have been my first love, but you helped me make it my last as a student-athlete.
It was a decision that only strengthened our bond as a family. No matter the time or distance, you and Mom were always on the sidelines cheering for me. That made my decision easier when choosing to stay closer to home and attend Oakland University.
The school being about 15 minutes away from my house helped me maintain a sense of normalcy. Sure, I could have hopped on a plane and hightailed it out of there to another school on the other side of the country. I know you still would have supported me every step of the way, but it was also nice to stay in the area, which ultimately kept you within driving distance of nearly every one of my meets.
And it was a convenience you never took for granted.
Even when it was inconvenient, and I know you haven’t forgotten those long car rides to Notre Dame, you still made a way to come see me compete.
It always meant everything to me to see you at those events because there are so many kids that don’t have the opportunity for their parents to be there to support them. Looking out into the crowd and seeing you and Mom always pushed me to do better.
But it was equally as important to me to see you share that same love and support for my teammates. Do you remember when Oakland hosted the Horizon League outdoor championships in 2018? Youngstown State was expected to win, and the championship came down to a 4×400 relay race. Even though I didn’t compete, you still cheered with the same enthusiasm as our team went on to win the first conference title in program history.
Seeing our home crowd go wild and you standing in the middle of it is something I’ll never forget.
You even loved and supported me enough to leave your alma mater University of Alabama attire, along with the “Roll Tide” chants, at home when coming to the track. You’d always show up with a Golden Grizzlies shirt or cap, ready to look the part. It was good to know that you were Team Sheldon above anything else.
Along with the fun times, you were there to help me through the tough ones as well. It wasn’t always easy balancing my school work and running track. Like every student-athlete, I had a responsibility to excel in the classroom as well as in sports.
My freshman year especially was a serious wake-up call when competing on a team full of talented seniors. I essentially went from being the fastest runner on my high school team to merely an average runner on the college roster.
A sudden shift like that could sap any young athlete’s confidence.
The fact that I had to deal with a long line of injuries throughout my collegiate career didn’t help matters, either. It was an issue that I was never able to fully shake, and it took away from me consistently being at my best.
But you always encouraged me to never give up, Dad. So I fought through multiple injuries, and although I wasn’t able to run in every event, I made an effort to compete whenever my body would allow it.
Last season might have been my best considering I was finally healthy. I was looking forward to doing some big things outdoors, but that obviously didn’t happen with the Coronavirus shutting everything down. It was super disappointing because it was the healthiest I’d been in my college career.
I would have loved for you to see me finish things up the right way, but there are too many unknowns in life to get caught up dwelling in the past.
I’ve reached the point where I’m okay with not running, although it would have been exciting to compete in at least one more meet.
The best thing about having you for a Dad is the fact that I know you’ll be as big of a fan in life as you were for me as a student-athlete.
You were Team Sheldon before I took my first steps and competed in my first race.
That support never wavered as I completed high school, and signed on to become a sprinter for the Golden Grizzlies, and pursued a mechanical engineering degree.
The future may be uncertain, but I know your love and support will remain constant.
When life gets tough, no matter the time or distance, I’ll make it a point to look to the crowd for you and Mom—my two biggest fans, always present and always cheering.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.