Now before you think I have gone off the deep end, I need to explain this word “Hebla” that has entered the vocabulary of some of our Dutch XC Alumni. This word originates with our girls team in our 2010 season, or might have had even earlier origins. It was the Knoxville meet that year where I was exposed to it for the first time.

I kept hearing a few of our varsity girls using the word “HEBLA” and was not sure of its meaning or why they kept saying it to each other.  The girls team had begun making a habit out of writing words on their tape that the coaches wrapped around their shoes to keep their laces down during a race.  Christina Hibbard apparently wrote “HEBLA” on her tape, but that was NOT what she “really” wrote on her shoe. What Christina REALLY wrote was, Heb. 12:1 (in reference to the scripture Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”).

As I rode the bus to our first meet of the 2014 season, there was quite a bit of time to reflect on all that has occurred over the years and where our team currently is. This marks the start of a decade of Pella Cross Country for Coach Cutler and me.

We arrived as “rookies” to Pella in 2005. We were given the honor of continuing a legacy of cross country running started by Coach Bandstra. Neither Coach Cutler nor I were not aware of each other or what all would take place over the next several years.

I remember my first meeting with Coach Cutler and the potential 2005 cross country team in the spring of that year.  Coach Cutler took time to introduce us to our potential team members and talked about the “BIG THINGS” using the rocks, sand, and water demonstration. We talked about the importance of training in the summer, of building a base and how a bigger base gives you a taller peak in distance running.  I would love to say that all the athletes at that meeting started the season with us and their friends came in droves, but that was not the case.

We did have a great crew of 24 high schoolers and 19 junior high students. Yes, we were responsible for the training of ALL the cross country athletes from middle school to high school for our first two seasons. It was a time of transition for those athletes as they had several coaches over their high school career.  We had to show them we were committed to Pella Cross Country in our training, in our every action, and in every reaction to situations that arose as they “got used to us.”

There are many stories that lead up to 2010, but if you look over previous seasons history you will find a steady increase in growth to the point of 90 athletes in the high school program in 2010. That was a year that had been followed by one of our athletes battling a brain tumor and returning to run in a different condition than had previously. It was a year that provided new challenges as we tried to manage many different reasons for running cross country with several chronic injuries of athletes not to mention wrangling 90 athletes with only two coaches. It was a year of realization that between two coaches, we could not provide adequate coverage for our growing team. It was going to be a season to transition.  It is after this season that our high school coaching staff grew from two to three, then to four, and is now at five (our fifth coach has been with us since the start as he is the creator of our website and has been my husband for nearly 20 years).

As I reflect on the thought that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses”, it seems clear to me that I am not the only witness, nor am I the only runner in this race.  What has transformed in the culture of Pella High School Cross Country as I have stated many times, goes beyond me. It goes beyond Coach Cutler. It goes beyond every athlete who has dawned the uniform for the running Dutch. It is about “others”. It is about our fellow teammates; it is about our community; it is about other runners who run the race.  We are reminded that our strength lies in how we build each other up and how we encourage each other. We are reminded that we work at making each other better. We are reminded that it really isn’t about me, it is about us (ALL of US). There is something about sharing the pain, sweat, and hard work with others.

I know when I get up at 4:15am to leave for a meet, there will be over 100 other people getting up shortly after me to to do the same thing.  As many of us realize, it is easier to do this together than to do it alone.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and it does make it easier to persevere. So when you are wondering if persisting toward your goal really matters, remember you are surrounded by witnesses of your endeavor and just maybe what you do is inspiring others to continue to persist toward their goals.