'Just be kind': 7th grader hopes act of kindness to cross country opponent inspires others
[Dec 7, 2021: Corey Miller]
Lately, Anna hasn’t been getting recognition for her running prowess, but instead, for her kind heart. (CREDIT: KSDK)
In sports, we're often taught that winning is the most important thing, and sometimes, the only thing. Two grade-school runners from southern Illinois recently shared a moment that showed what sports at their best can really be about.
Breese Elementary 7th grader Anna Florczyk might be modest, but she definitely knows what she's doing out on a cross-country course.
“She’s an easy person to coach," Breese cross country coach Noah Hollenkamp said. "She definitely knew everything about the sport.”
“I, I think I'm OK," Anna laughed.
But she does admit to a love/hate relationship with practicing her hills.
“I like them…," Anna said about hills. "Like every time we do hills I want to go home and sleep the rest of the night.”
Lately, Anna hasn’t been getting recognition for her running prowess, but instead, for her kind heart.
Let’s go back to the state cross country meet at DuQuoin, where Breese was taking on competition from all over Illinois. And that DuQuoin course is a doozy.
“I've walked the DuQuoin state course. You start off right up a big hill and for these little kids it’s a struggle," Hollenkamp said.
But in the heat of competition in the biggest race of her life so far, Anna spotted a runner from another team who was struggling. She didn’t hesitate. Anna knew she needed to help.
"So I was just running along and I saw this girl who was about my height. She was small like me and I saw she was struggling. So I went over, ran up to her and tried to make sure she was OK and if she needed help or anything. And she said, ‘No, I think I can make it.’ So I kind of kept close to her but wanted her to finish the race and feel like she accomplished something. I definitely saw that she was starting to struggle. So I ran up to her again and made sure she was OK. And she said she was struggling a lot and she needed her mom and needed to get some help. And I kept telling her that it was, ‘OK, you can push through it. And I’ve been in the same place you are.’ Racing is so hard and people don’t think that running, cross country and even track… people don’t think that those things are super hard but once you’re in that place and that moment of that race it’s so hard to finish when you think you can’t make it," Anna said.
That’s when an onlooker captured a photograph of Anna, encouraging her competitor, a total stranger, so she could finish, too.
“I just saw that a person was struggling. I didn’t see what team she was on or anything specific, Anna said. "I just saw that she was struggling and I would do that for anybody at any race. I would just help them.”
That competitor was Wolf Branch 6th grader Caroline Smith. And Anna's support made all the difference.
“It made me feel good because most people don’t want to do that. They’re more worried about themselves and it made me feel good," Anna said. “I would have probably quit. Or I would have tried to quit. But she really helped me want to stay in the race.”
Both girls did cross the finish line, and the story of Anna’s kind act found its way around both schools. And a few weeks later Anna and Caroline finally got the chance to meet properly.
“We’re very proud of Anna for what she has done for being a great teammate and being a good sportsman. Having good sportsmanship with other runners and that’s something we would definitely want for her to do. But very humbled by the recognition she’s getting. It’s something we definitely talk about with her and we’re very proud of her," Anna's dad, Carl Florczyk said.
“We’ve always worked this season on great sportsmanship, community involvement and we’ve worked hard to spread kindness. So she took my expectations and blew it out of the water that’s for sure," Hollenkamp said.
Now, the two girls hope they can promote kindness, to whoever might need it.
“Just be kind. It’s really not that hard. It takes minimal time and minimal effort. But it really does help people and makes their day. Whenever people are kind to me it definitely helps me become a better person and makes my day," Anna said. “I think if people tried to be kind all around the world this world would be so much better.”
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