Feature

Spartan Athletes: Melissa Innocent

By Shinedip Kundlas

Volume 1 Issue 7

April 22, 2021

Spartan Athletes: Melissa Innocent

Original photo by Michael Frazer

In this issue we are featuring yet another stellar North athlete, sophomore Melissa Innocent. Innocent started her journey in 7th grade at VSN. She has been on the Varsity Cross-Country and Varsity Winter/Spring Track teams since 8th grade. Melissa placed 20th out of 85 at the 2019 Cross-Country County’s as a freshman. She has devoted her time and effort into her sports. In this interview, Melissa answers some questions here about her sport.


When did you first choose your sport? Why?

I chose my sport when I was in elementary school.  I remember running in gym class outside and I wasn’t the fastest kid there, but I didn’t want to be first. I just enjoyed being in the moment and running around my school. In 7th grade I chose Cross Country as my sport. I loved competing and was proud of my achievements.  I gradually got better at running and stuck with it ever since.


If you could achieve anything you wished for in your sport, what would it be?

Being able to understand that you don’t always have to be first or get a PB meaning “personal best” in track, can be hard at first. This sport isn’t about anybody but your mind and body. I feel like everyone achieves a win in their own way with this sport. You're competing against yourself, so if I was able to achieve anything I wish for in my sport it would be putting my best out there but reaching for better next time.


Which strengths do you believe you have that makes you a great athlete?

Determination--because I feel like being a student athlete it takes guts and hard work to achieve your goal. It takes effort to continue doing track because it isn’t the easiest sport. Strength, I believe, makes me a great athlete because the workouts are not easy. Willingness to practice long and hard to continue working hard is a strength I have as well.


What do you believe is the greatest challenge most high school athletes are facing during the pandemic?

The greatest challenge student athletes are facing during the pandemic is not being able to be with your teammates and coaches. The track team really does feel like family and having the chance to compete with them for another season is so tremendous. My team makes me want to strive for better. Not having the whole team to cheer for, and being there when I win, is devastating because it helps me get motivated and want to seek for better. During the pandemic, I missed running and being with my team. I am really grateful to be back in season but there are many student athletes who are not able to play their sports. So, I think that is a big challenge for us during this pandemic.


Describe your worst sports performance. What did you learn from this experience?

My worst performance was in cross country in 2019 we were competing for the county title, and I was extremely nervous. I was doing wonderfully in the middle of the race all of the sudden I broke down in tears and I started to slow down. I was so upset at myself that I couldn’t finish strong but then there was this girl on the other team.  She saw me break down, and she said to me “It’s going to be okay, just stay with me.” From this experience, I learned to accept my failures because they're going to be successes. After my “worst performance,” I took this lesson in order to accept my “goods and bads.”


How does being a student athlete inspire you to do well?

Being a student athlete inspires me to do good because this sport brings out the best and worst out of people. The different emotions you feel before and after the races are hard to manage and go through on your own. This sport makes me not want to give up in life when things get hard. When my friends or someone I know goes through something it makes me want to help them out. Being a student athlete, you face a lot of challenges, which makes us stronger. This strength motivates me to be good to others and help others. Whether it be in sports, school, or personal issues, it is always good to keep a positive mindset.


What advice do you have for other aspiring track stars?

To not give up when it gets tough, or let it ruin your confidence throughout your journey. An example is when my coach always reminds us that you're not going to get better in a week. It takes dedication and training. Being there for practice and putting in the work is one step closer for performing well.

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According to the NCAA Student-Athlete COVID-19 Well-Being Survey which was organized in spring 2020, a related survey organized in the fall revealed student-athletes continue to confront intensified mental health anxieties and obstacles to sport participation. We applaud Melissa and her team for their hard work and dedication to their sport during these challenging times. Go Spartans!

Update: Melissa wins All-County honors during April 17th weekend!