Principia College’s track and field team has 35 athletes between the men’s and women’s teams. 35 chances to capture any given race. But in the eyes of senior Nick Lynch’s toddler daughter, Gracie, back home in Sacramento, the Principia College Track and Field team is made up of daddy and her 34 friends.
After his first son went off to college, his second and third oldest settled in to high school, Lynch and his wife packed up and moved to Elsah, Illinois to finish out school at Principia College.
“It seemed like a once in 20-year opportunity,” Lynch said. “We had a house and once we got an offer, I realized this could be the time so I jumped on it.”
After joining Principia’s track and field team, Lynch made it a point to transcend age and distance. With days left before graduation, his college experience and track career has been a success.
“Runners seem to have a huge obsession with age,” Lynch said. “[Dividing ages] Is fun and exciting to do but it also has downsides too. People start complaining about their knees or that they’re losing a step. I didn’t want that. I wanted to compete. I also just miss being a part of a team. It’s been successful. I just ran a 5:04 mile which is within five seconds of my lifetime best and I just got my personal best in the 200 meter under 30 seconds.”
Lynch’s decision to flourish wasn’t a decision that limited his potential beyond his running shoes. Since enrolling, he has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, founded the school’s Panther Percussion Corps and along with fellow senior, Cha Cha Fisher, stepped up as one of the most active leaders in the church.
“It’s been such a treat to read with him each Sunday,” Fisher said. “He brings a lot of deep inspiration to our services and it is really special to share spiritual insights with him. He is an eager, open adherent of Christian Science and truly loves his relationship with God.”
With glowing praise from those around him, success on the track, success in the classroom, in the church and seemingly anywhere else a student can succeed, Lynch appears to have had it easy. But when his now expecting wife and daughter decided to move back to Sacramento, the mental track seemed to shift uphill.
“It has been very difficult and wasn’t what we had planned,” Lynch said. “There was a spiritual opportunity there where I have been forced to give up my specific idea about family. The main thing is that I want to make sure my little daughter and others know I love them and they’re important to me.”
As the distance between Lynch and his family has grown, his peers have noticed his effort to remain a supportive, involved father and husband has more than made up for any geographic location.
“I see him calling his family during our travel time for meets,” said head coach Sedge Southworth. “He has travelled many weekends to go be with family, including spring break. We’d love to have him with us more, but we all understand the value of spending time with family also.”
More often than not, others on the team are invited to join in the Facetime calls or videos he will send back with well wishes and prayers for his family.
“I think it’s good for the other athletes, none of whom have children, to see a man that runs alongside them also be dedicated to his family,” Southworth said. “It’s a good reminder of what it means to run or work for some idea bigger than ourselves.”
One of Lynch’s favorite ways of managing the distance comes with a weekly dose of paper and colored pencils.
“I first saw him sitting with colored pencils during a dinner stop for an away track meet,” Southworth said. “I asked him why he had them and he told me he likes to draw a picture for his daughter and send her something once a week.”
In true Principia form, it wasn’t long before everybody began getting involved.
“One day I had dedicated half hour to draw and I decided to pass it around and see if anybody else wanted to contribute to the masterpiece,” Lynch said. “I wrote in a card, ‘Have mommy text me when you see this.’ and I sent the video afterwards of all of us saying hi to show her she’s being loved from afar.”
The contributions and support from the team was the kind of bonding experience that proved to Southworth that the ideal bond a coach wishes to get out of his athletes had not only been achieved, but surpassed.
“I think the activity speaks to the idea we hold that our team is a family,” Southworth said.
With graduation in May, Lynch is all but packed up to reunite with his family for good giving him back the opportunity to spend every day with them.
“I really feel like I have two homes,” Lynch said. “I’m really looking forward to bringing as much love and atmosphere back home with me. Once we’re conscious of love in one place, we’re more conscious to love in all places. I actually started to cry when I thought about it. I love this place and I hope that more and more places become more like this place. This is more utopian than any other place I have been.”
Article by: Walker Van Wey – Lindenwood University and you can find him on Twitter @Walker_VanWey