Wilkin and his sister before State 2015
Thomas Wilkin, a senior at Trinity School at River Ridge, has been running since he was in first grade where he participated in little league track and field. This week I not only got the opportunity to race with Thomas at the section 4A championship, but also learned a little bit about his long history with running and the challenges he has faced.
After experimenting with soccer, kickball, and basketball in his younger years, Wilkin, by his own admission, realized that he lacked the coordination to excel in these sports (something that many of us runners discover at a young age). It was in seventh grade that Wilkin recalls "falling in love with running" as he realized he had a knack for the sport.
Upon joining the Trinity cross country team Wilkin immediately felt drawn to the "friendly and almost family-like environment." Wilkin extended his gratitude towards his coaches (Coach Jesse, Stevenson, and Cunningham), due to their ability to make practices intense but also fun and a good experience for all of the runners.
Trinity has a very impressive cross-country history in the past few years. They won nine consecutive conference titles from 2008-2016, and were back-to-back section champions, going on to place 5th and 10th at state.
Wilkin himself has an equally impressive resume, holding several grade-level school records, earning All-Conference 5-times, All-Section in 19th grade, and completing his first half-marathon over this past summer. Wilkin's achievements, however, have been limited by certain uncontrollable factors.
Trinity boys team at 2015 conference meet
Starting in 10th grade Wilkin had Achilles tendinitis which greatly limited his sophomore year. His training was not consistent, he collapsed at the section meet, and was only able to run one race during the track season. Ever since his original bought with tendonitis Wilkin admits that his training has been much less consistent. "The most difficult part for me has been trying to rebuild confidence and deal with excessive pre-race anxiety."
In 11th grade, Wilkin noticed he was having occasional breathing issues and late during the track season he experienced unusual levels of fatigue. He was tested and treated for lymes disease over the summer. Going into his senior year Wilkin was fortunate to not feel the effects of lymes disease, however he was out for a few more weeks due to a stress reaction in his foot that had potential to become a fracture.
In speaking with former teammates and coaches of Wilkin, the most consistent message I have heard is that he has huge potential, and even though it has been slightly limited due to the injuries he has faced, he has remained committed and persistent in working to be the best that he can be. Coach Jesse Shoen recalls that, "if it weren't for the challenges he has faced, he could have been close to breaking the 16-minute 5k barrier."
Trinity boys before state 2016
Wilkin has been forced to accept these roadblocks and in reflection he confesses that, "maybe I complained a bit too much at first, but over time I learned to stay more positive." Being patient with recovery is a challenge for everybody, and it was no different for Wilkin who saw his issues with running applicable to a more general view of life. "I've learned the importance of perseverance and pushing through challenges, and as for running, regardless of setbacks, I've come to enjoy simply being outside with my friends and challenging each other."
Wilkin's setbacks have forced him to adjust his goals, such as breaking 16 minutes and being an All-State runner by his senior year, and heading into his final year his goal was simply to enjoy the experience and the sport. By focusing less on results and more on the positive experiences that running provides, Wilkin has been better able to cope with anxiety and as a result he has performed better. He remains optimistic that this coming track season could be his best one yet!
Looking ahead, at least to some degree, Wilkin hopes to continue running. As for his college plans, he is considering the St. Thomas, Benedictine, U of Mary (ND), Hillsdale, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. Wilkin's interests lie in Theology, Philosophy, and the arts amongst many other things.
People like Thomas, who have faced significant challenges and persevere because of their love of the sport and dedication, are exactly the type who I hope to continue to feature in this column. Thomas values his time in this sport because it has helped him "develop some of the best friendships he has, and it brings a sense of freedom and satisfaction" to him. Results do not need to be the focus of why people choose to love this sport, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to share Thomas' story with you all!