When not taking photos, editing photos or working on some never ending creative endeavor, you can usually find me at Shelby Farms on a trail or in a field with a big black dog, and about 40 teenagers. I'll likely be screaming my head off as they run laps around me... not out of anger, but out of sheer unyielding passion for the sport that is cross country. Though I sometimes question my own sanity, I love coaching high schoolers and I love this sport - because it's do or die. It's basically 3.1 miles of agony - fatiguing muscles, burning lungs, pounding heartbeats. But it's also 3.1 miles of determination, mind over matter, team work, and strength. It's 20 minutes of convincing yourself that your legs won't give out unless your mind gives up, 20 minutes of convincing yourself it is worth competing with the runner next to you until you cross the finish line, and 20 minutes of your life you will never get back. Why anyone submits themselves to this sort of pain, I have ABSOLUTELY no idea. I love it though. The only way to fail is to simply quit. If you can make it through that 20 minutes, there's something waiting for you at the finish line, and it isn't regret. It's a feeling that can only be felt not explained. I love that feeling. I love the toughness this sport teaches. I love the life lessons that I inevitably walk away with year after year - first runner now coach. But most of all, I love my teenagers - which brings me to Harley.
I've loved Harley since the first day of cross country practice her Freshman year, because no matter what she's always Harley. She stood in the circle as a tall, skinny 14 year old doing her stretches and out of the blue said, "Hey guys, I want to be a botanist." I have loved her for her flute playing, her mermaid red hair, her obsession with unconventional Asian fashion, her quirkiness, for eating Sour Patch Kids every day during XC season (despite my lectures on nutrition), and even for ALWAYS trying to sneak taking SnapChat pictures of me when she THINKS I'm not looking. This summer she stood at practice (3 years after declaring her love for plants) and introduced herself to this year's group of freshman by saying, "Hey guys. I'm Harley, and I love pastels." 3 years later...she is still the same Harley.
So when she said to me (yes, again at practice), "Hey Coach Kaitlyn, can you take my senior pictures," you better believe I said yes! On the outside I was calm, but inside I was actually jumping up and down with excitement, and my brain was already going a thousand miles a minute with ideas trying to do everything in my power to make her pictures convey everything that is Harley. Her shoot was honestly a little bittersweet, because again quite honestly, I can't imagine the cross country team without her anymore. Going through her photos, I feel like a proud mom, and I'm just thankful that I've gotten to be a part of her journey.
Harley, I love you more than you will ever know, and I'm so honored to have gotten to shoot your senior photos! More than that though, I'm honored to have gotten to know you over the past 4 years, watch you grow into an incredible leader and remain true to yourself throughout the duration of high school. I'm forever proud to not just be your coach but to call you one of my "kids."