by Jess Zutz
1985 was a good year. For somewhat obvious reasons, the year holds a special place in the hearts and minds of those connected to We Grew Wings. It is the year when our Track Women of Oregon won the program’s lone outdoor national championship “in a different way,” as Leann Warren put it. It marked a time when the figurative ball that the pioneers of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s began rolling reached such epic size that it could no longer be ignored. This is the story that We Grew Wings so eloquently tells; a tale of two teams finally given a microphone to tell their story.
1985 was a good year for me, too. It was the year I was born. And today, as I celebrate my 27th birthday, I can’t help but appreciate the fact that I am celebrating this anniversary alongside such an impressive group of determined individuals. Though I hardly consider myself a sage and my years spent walking this earth are few, I feel that birthdays, in particular, are an appropriate time to both reflect on what one has accomplished in the past, but also use these lessons to color the future.
Over the past two weeks, I have filled my days by playing at the Jordan Kent Skills Camps in Eugene. The camps are an ultra-affordable way for kids to connect not only with sports, but more importantly with Jordan Kent, who is living proof that hard work and dedication (perhaps coupled with magnificent physical ability) can really pay off. These camps are flat out fun; I’ve had the chance to literally play with 90 school-aged kids all day long. Many of the kids attending the camps are seriously under privileged and they are attending the camps through the generous scholarships that the Jordan Kent Foundation underwrites. Some have never had the chance to play sports. Kids as old as 13 years of age are, for the first time, discovering their talents and beginning to blossom as our future world record holders.
In the wake of experiencing the Olympic Trials to the fullest extent, working at these camps has been extraordinarily refreshing. It’s hard not to smile at the oceans of distance between witnessing the record-breaking performance of Ashton Eaton in the decathlon, and several seven year-old boys struggling to do a proper jumping jack. Or the gutsy 5000m prelims effort of Lauren Fleshman, and watching a nine year-old girl stumble as she attempts to kick a soccer ball with her non-dominant foot. We’ve all come from these humble athletic beginnings of pushing ourselves to seemingly insurmountable heights, only to find that the impossible then is something we can easily achieve now.
Of the many compelling stories that come from We Grew Wings, there is one in particular that has stuck with me: it’s the one that’s untold. It’s the story that will write itself in the coming days, months, and years as we continue to share the film. This story comes to life in the captivating final seconds of the film, which I will resist spoiling right now. What I like most about this story is that this story will never have an ending. It will continue on and on, as if it’s circling around a track with no finish line. As we continue to encourage kids to run, laugh, and play, it’s important that we remember just how it felt to leap over a hurdle or kick a soccer ball for the first time. It seems like just yesterday, doesn’t it?
Just as I’m sure for some, it seems like just yesterday, it was 1985.