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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

Emma Hopkins ’23 prepares to race in a crew shell down Noxontown Pond.
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Emma Hopkins ’23

Emma Hopkins ’23 gave this talk on athletics at St. Andrew's during Awards Night 2023

What does it mean to be an athlete? I remember when an old coach labeled me and my teammates with this word, and we just giggled at how serious he was. Duh, we were athletes, we did a sport. Yet, we began to wear the term with pride and found determination when we reminded ourselves of it. However, it took sports at St. Andrew’s for me to understand what the term “athlete” meant.

The three sports I do here, cross-country, swimming, and crew, (pain sports, as some call them) are three of the most “individual” sports you can do at St. Andrew's. I might not be able to aim or catch unless you want me to deeply embarrass myself, but what I have learned in my sports is how to zone in. To shut out nerves and distractions so that I can focus completely on what I’m about to do and embrace whatever excruciating pain I have decided to put myself through. 

This is what I thought was the mark of a good athlete: if I could shut out everything and everyone else, then I would find success.

One of these moments where I zoned in completely was at my final Stotesbury Cup last weekend. You can ask many of my boatmates for photos of me on the ride to the finals with a stony face. Engrossed in hype-up music, I was focused on what I was about to do and the pain I was about to put myself in, blocking out whatever antics were happening at the back of the bus. This was what mattered, right?

However, when my final race ended, all I could do was cry because it was over. I cried because I had taken my final strokes with a boat full of rowers that had become my sisters. I cried because my time competing with St. Andrew's athletes was over.

In this moment, no amount of zoning in was more important than the people around me. It is these people, my beloved teammates, who have had the greatest impact on me as a person and it has been my connection with them that has made me an athlete. 

Locking in might be a skill, but what it really means to be an athlete, and a Saint, is to reach out. The most important things I have accomplished have been because they were bigger than just myself. State Championships and A-finals were done for teams who without question supported me through my lows and celebrated my highs and everything in between, from conversations on long runs to singing Adele in the swimming locker room.

To end this, I would just like to say thank you. Thank you to my coaches who have always been there to push me while striving to know me as a whole person. I could not be more grateful for these teams that I have given my heart and soul to, who have become family, mentors, and friends. Continue to be the best athletes you can be in everything that means.

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