By Emilija Krstevska (YES
2021-2022, North Macedonia, placed by Aspect Foundation in Olympia, WA)
Athletic principles, such as
sportsmanship, teamwork, and perseverance, begin at a young age for Americans,
as their schools allow students to become student-athletes. During her exchange
year in the U.S., Emilija had the opportunity to learn these same principles as
she joined her host high school's Cross Country team.
Emilija spent her exchange
year in Olympia, WA, a state widely known for its rainy weather and evergreen
forests. The almost-constant cloudiness made the location a perfect place to
start running, as it was never too hot nor too cold, and the wooden trails
provided gorgeous scenery for a long outdoor run. Emilija's American high
school, Olympia High School, was even known for having a student who is the 4th
fastest 2-miler runner in Washington State.
Becoming a part of the Cross Country team
allowed Emilija to run together with people who pushed her to her limits while
experiencing the comradery and fulfillment of an American high school sport.
Running became an essential hobby for Emilija, and she found herself doing it
daily. Her newfound love for athletics made her become a part of the Track
& Field team at her high school, where she ran in the event 3200 meters and
the 4x4 relay
Ever since her exchange year, Emilija continued doing the workouts
her coach taught her and kept up running. In September 2022, only 3 months
after her return, Emilija competed in a race in her hometown of Bitola, Trcaj
Be, where there were over 1400 contestants. In the race, she ran 10 kilometers,
a distance double what she had ever run with her American teams. Emilija placed
29th in the race with a time of 1:00:01.
day of the race, she woke up with countless messages from her teammates who
sent her pictures of them holding signs with motivational words and cheering
for her even five thousand miles away. She hopes to have the chance to run with
them again and is forever grateful to her teammates.
of becoming a strong runner, being a part of American sports teams had many
benefits for Emilija. For example, she discovered the importance of discipline
and consistency, the payoff of hard work, and the value of being part of a team where she
felt supported, welcomed, and accepted.