I remember this team picture being taken. It was after a race and we were still very new to one another. All of us adjusting to college life and Division One athletics. That first semester of college can be difficult. Nothing is the same. Home is different as everyone has moved along in life and college is not yet familiar. It feels like a vacation you don’t want to be on.
We had our ups and down as a team and as a social group. It was the 80’s and women in athletics was new. Title Nine gave us equal access athletically speaking but many colleges and universities cut men’s programs to fund the women. So, we took the blame.
We still take the blame and athletics is not really equitable.
The Collegiate basketball championships showed men’s teams in fancy hotels with gourmet food and first-class training facilities. The women’s teams were in budget motels with bagged lunches and very limited training facilities. It made national news.
But that is not what this is about.
A year after Molly died Lesley’s husband Bruce died from ALS. Bruce started coaching at BU in 1983. He and Lesley fell in love and married in 1987. Unlike many relationships in the athletic world, Lesley never ran for BU or was coached by Bruce. They did it right and created an equitable respectful relationship. They were married for 30 years.
His death brought us all back together.
A group of us met in Boston and stayed for a weekend. We had wanted to all say good bye to Bruce as a group but he died before we got there. It was heart wrenching. Our visit was wonderful though and we laughed and shared and connected all weekend. Marti set it up and Alyssa, Kathy, Marisel, Lesley, Lisa and I had a wonderful visit.
We did it again in the fall of 2018 in Washington DC. Donna, Linda, Vicki and Tanya joined in this time. In 2019 the team met up in Boston again to watch Joanie run her last Boston Marathon. I had just had brain surgery so I stayed home. Marisel got off the plane and drove her rental car up to see me. Later that year I joined Alyssa and MaryAnn in Florida.
Then came Covid, and this thing called Zoom.
We re-connected in a zoom call in 2021. Jack was just a few months old. I set this up. As an online teacher I am familiar with Zoom. There were about ten of us on that call along with Joanie. It was terrific. Over a year passed but we did it again.
A group text with a day and time was met with resounding positivity.
Jack graced us with his presence and once again we had roughly ten athletes and Joanie. We had a wonderful visit. We each shared the good the bad and the ugly. We gave support and kudos depending on the news. It could have been 1985.
Then came the news.
Mary sent an email with news that long time distance coaching legend John Babington has been officially banned from coaching by Safesport for sexual molestation and misconduct. He had inappropriately touched two minors when they were running for him and had an inappropriate relationship with a collegiate athlete. Many of us were stunned but many of us were not surprised.
When you know you know.
In the process of working through this information a few of us shared that we had been victims of this type of abuse. Not at the hands of John but by family members. While I should not have been surprised, the level of insight, support, comfort, empathy and love in the emails that followed was unbelievable.
I have never felt so acknowledged and supported.
We have remained a team. We are all very different. We worship differently, we vote differently, we marry differently. None of those things matter. In moments like death, loss, and the revealing of traumatic abuse we circle up and offer love, protection and grace.
I have always felt strongly that young people need to find their passion and then find the people that share it. Molly and Gracie had dance and theater. I had running and now CrossFit. People sing and play instruments. They build robots. The work in politics and volunteer at summer camps.
This is the creation of community.
Ours is an athletic team. We trained and raced together. We won and lost together. We lived together. I am incredibly lucky to have had this college experience. I knew it when I was there. I have remembered it with wistful and happy memories all of my adult life.
I have never been so appreciative of this experience or grateful for those women as I am today.
We are Boston University Women’s Track & Field and Cross-Country, Volume One Edition One. The Original Girls!