Friday, February 27, 2009


Natalie Wheating, HHS class of 2009, wrote this essay for Ms. Alsup's class in Contemporary American Culture. To see the video of the Oregon trials that sent Andrew Wheating to the 2008 Olympics, click Andrew graduated from Kimball Union Academy in 2006.

This past spring my eldest brother, Andrew, accomplished a feat once deemed impossible for mankind. He ran a sub-four minute mile, 3:58.16. About three hundred Americans in history have run a mile in under four minutes, but Andrew was the first Vermonter to ever have achieved this, and he accomplished it at only twenty years of age. In a matter of months his reputation jumped quickly from amateur college runner to notable competition for athletes of all ages. Soon after running his sub-four mile, Andrew qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympic Trials in the 800m dash, placing him among the top runners in the country.

The men running at these trials had been planning for the Olympics for years. They had trained their bodies, constructed their workouts, and maintained their diets to make sure that they were at their peak running condition for these trials. Here, runners would run times that they had never run before. They would push their bodies to their limits, all in order to earn a spot, of which there were only three available, at the Summer Olympics the following month in Beijing. Andrew had only just learned that he even had a chance of making it to the Olympics. He had only started running two years previously; reluctantly too, because his soccer coach was so amazed at how quickly he ran his mile at the beginning of the soccer season, the sport he had originally pursued.
Our family obviously had to show its support, so that summer, the four of us flew out together to scream his name on the sidelines at the trials in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene was notorious for its track athletics. It had even been dubbed Tracktown, USA because of its devotion to running. The days of the trials were hot and sweaty. My family was lucky enough to have seats in the corner of the stands, with a perfect view of the finish line. Somewhere deep down, I had full confidence that my brother would at least make it to the finals. I knew that even though he was technically a rookie in the sport, he was already proficient at it. He was definitely one of the top runners in the country. What I couldn’t tell though, was what was going to happen once he made it to finals. The Olympics are a huge deal, and on the international scale, I couldn’t imagine my brother on that level yet, running with athletes from around the world. He had only competed in America! I could only wait and see how he did.

Andrew won his preliminary race with ease, and continued to place second in his semifinal, carrying him on to the finals with seven other runners. It was the last event of the day, at seven o’clock at night. My family and I had prepared ourselves with as much Andrew-supporting paraphernalia as we could find. We all wore t-shirts sporting “Go Andy!” on the front and “Wheat Sis,” “Wheat Bro,” “Wheat Dad,” and “Wheat Mom” on the back. No matter what would happen, we were so proud him for making it to the finals; he, who hadn’t even considered the Olympics just months ago.

The hours leading up to his race seemed endless and yet, when he ran, the time jumped, everything suddenly becoming a blur. I remember watching the group of runners all keeping together the first lap, running at a near sprint. I watched Andrew near the back, keeping pace with the group, but a few paces from the lead. My heart leapt as I saw another Oregon runner break through two runners and speed toward the front of the pack as they rounded the final turn. Andy, seeing him break away, followed quickly, smoothly leaving his place in the back and jumping places ahead in the group, only meters from the finish line. And suddenly, my voice was lost from screaming. I had ended up standing on my feet alongside the edge of the track, my hands grasping the banister. My eyes were watering as I felt my throat tightening. I was smiling. Glowing! Beaming! My brother was an Olympian.

I’d have to say that this was one of the most exciting trips I’ve had in my life. Of course, our family went to China to show him our support again, but there was no time on that trip with as much energy that the stadium in Eugene held that night. I had never experienced so many emotions in such a short amount of time. I had never felt such a thrill going through my body. Even though it wasn’t me who was running on that track, I felt the same excitement that my brother felt within me, and I felt just as accomplished, knowing that that exemplary athlete going to the Olympics was my brother.span>