Rio Summer Olympics Inspire High School Athletes to Reach for Gold

The Summer Games were full of unforgettable tales of sportsmanship, victory, regret and loss. The Olympians were not the only ones who gained from the experience in the Village, on the court, track, and field, but the student athletes of Ocean Lakes as well.

“One of the underlying themes of the Olympics is the culmination of hard work,” said senior soccer player and runner Sean Burtner. “Each and every athlete competing in the Games has put countless hours into developing their skills, and have the opportunity to show it off; such persistence and diligence can be applied to any skill level, and will undoubtedly lead to results. Athletes all over the world can benefit from seeing the product of hard work.”

Several stories of incredible talent and expertise were displayed this summer, but one stood out to senior cross country and track runner, Maddie King.

“The race where Abbey D’Agostino fell with Nikki Hamblin scared me because that was a pretty nasty race,” said Maddie. “As runners we don’t usually get injured during the race and she tore her ACL.”

Despite the frightening fall, the end of the race was the part Maddie remembered the most. After the fall, the two elite athletes picked each other up and were determined to finish the race with 2,000 meters remaining.

“Their sportsmanship inspired me for my upcoming cross country season. Since cross country is such a huge bonding experience to see the competitors congratulating each other at the end of the 5k was just great,” said Maddie. “You could see the real team spirit.”

Another highlight of this year’s Olympics was the dominance of the United States in gymnastics and swimming. The American gymnastics defeated Russia by over eight points, “equivalent to several touchdowns in a football game,” according to Team USA’s official website. Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky led the swimmers.

“I think it will make high school gymnasts try to strive to be better. We put so much time and effort into gymnastics season and it pays off so much,” said sophomore Deanna Krieder.

Junior swimmer and runner Jacob Bushey elaborates more on the United States’ success in swimming.

“Other swimmers tend to be overshadowed by Phelps, and we don’t notice them as much; but they’re still there and talented, like the other guys on the 4X100 team,” said Jacob. “They’ll now have a chance to shine. Michael Phelps made swimming big in America, and we will continue to be dominant on the world stage even though he’s gone.”

Out of all the Olympic performances, the younger athletes were the only ones that truly inspired the student athletes.

“One of the biggest inspirations for me in this year’s Olympics was Chloe Dygert on the women’s track racing pursuit,” said junior cyclist Laney Butt. “She is only 19 and that team of four has the current world championship title and placed second at the Olympics. She is a vital member of the team and it’s amazing to see someone only two year older than me racing in an event like the Olympics.”

One remarkable performance by a teenager at the Olympics would also be that of 16 year old runner Sydney McLaughlin in the 400 meter hurdles.

“[Sydney’s] performance just goes to show how high schoolers are capable of performing with the world’s most elite athletes,” said Jacob.

Although her skill inspired many high school athletes, it was her ambition and determination that opened everyone’s eyes.

“She obviously showed that anything is possible and to dream big, but more importantly, she showed that you don’t have to be a full time professional athlete to compete on the global stage,” said Sean. “With a strong work ethic, indomitable attitude, and some talent, there’s no telling what one can accomplish.”