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When the history books are written about the great philosophers of this era rapper Juelz Santana is not likely going to be one of the first names listed.
Yet there was a lyric from one of Santanaâs songs on the back of Narragansett cross country coach Robert Shieldsâ sweatshirt as he checked in on Marissa McPhillips after the sophomore Mariner had literally given it everything she had at Sundayâs RI Girls State Championship.
âHard work pays off, you get what you put in.â
If anyone knows how true that is, itâs McPhillips.
âHer work ethic has always been top notch,â Shields said after Sundayâs race. âSheâs more than just an athlete now, sheâs a leader on our team. Truly she leads by example and itâs that drive, that determination to help others that kind of pushes her to succeed as well.â
After the first mile of Sundayâs race McPhillips knew she would be in for a test as some of the stateâs best runners pushed the pace from the get go.
âWhen I heard 5:50 I knew that Iâd gone out too fast,â McPhillips said. âThe funny thing is the first mile you feel good because itâs only the first mile, youâve got everyone around you cheering. Itâs great, your adrenalineâs going and once you hit that first hill itâs like, âoh man. Too fast. Too fast.ââ
McPhillips pushed on though, working her way into the top 15 heading into the final straight away on Ponagasetâs football field.
Then with about 50 yards to go it became clear that McPhillipsâ body had enough as her knees began to buckle before she fell to the ground.
In an instance as this anyone would have understood if she had given up but as McPhillips tells it something too similar had happened to her earlier in the season and she was not about to allow it to happen again.
âThis happened at Connecticut a few weeks ago before class [championships] and I actually collapsed a few feet from the line,â McPhillips said. âI didnât hear the official say you didnât finish and you have to keep going so they ended up taking me off and I just missed finishing.
âThis time when I collapsed I said to myself, âI have to finish this. There is no way Iâm getting pulled off again when Iâm this close. I have to get through.ââ
So thatâs just what she did, crawling on hands and knees, reaching forward until she finally got to the finish line in what was one or the more courageous, inspiring acts youâll see on an athletic field.
âThatâs just a testament to who she is as an individual,â Shields said. âSheâs always putting forth her best effort. Sheâs always striving to try and achieve a higher place or just to succeed even in the classroom. Sheâs just a well-rounded individual that puts everything into whatever she wants to succeed at.â
It took McPhillips about 30 seconds to get to the line after going down as she finished in 24th place â still good enough to qualify for the New England Championships â but if youâre thinking this is a sympathy story about an athlete who came up short think again; itâs a warning to the competition.
When you look at what separates the good from the great itâs that innate ability to push oneself and work harder than the rest.
Itâs one of those things that cannot be learned, that the elite athletes either have or donât and Sunday it was clear; McPhillips has got it.
âItâs off the charts,â Shields said of McPhillipsâ potential. âSheâs an outstanding athlete and sheâs only going to get better the older she gets.â
Evan Crawley is an assistant editor with SRI Newspapers and can be reached by phone at (401) 789-9744 ext. 128 or by e-mail at email@example.comView more articles in: