Student-athletes push past challenges to succeed

Kamari Esquerra

For five semesters, Meghan Lloyd’s career as a track and cross country athlete was stable, until she was given startling news — she had thyroid cancer.

“That was something that really came out of nowhere,” Lloyd said. “I was at the peak of my career, I had just set another school record — my personal record in the 5K.”

Through this setback, Lloyd, a speech and language psychology senior, said she gained a greater appreciation for her position on the team, as well as enhanced motivation. UT student-athletes face challenges unique to their experience in addition to those faced by students with more typical circumstances. For some, status as a student-athlete motivates them to persevere in the face of these challenges. Lloyd said the UT athletic complex played a considerable role in shaping her perspective and abilities — and she’s not the only one.

Lloyd did not always excel at the level she does now. High school track challenged her, and she did not begin scoring competitively until her senior year. Despite her early performance in high school, Lloyd said she persevered through the selective recruitment process and earned a spot on UT’s track team.

“I was just really grateful (to come to UT) because I wasn’t that state champion that came out on top,” Lloyd said. “I really had to work for it.”

Lloyd underwent surgery following her cancer diagnosis, which she said made participating in track more difficult. While there were times she wanted to give up, Lloyd said she maintained a positive attitude and focused her energy on getting better.

“I didn’t (start running) as fast as I normally do, but I was like, ‘I feel good.’ I know I can do better,” Lloyd said. “As hard as it was to compete and fall short every single race, I think it goes into the bigger picture … once you start something, you’re going to finish it.”

Such perseverance has allowed other students, such as track athlete Gabby Crank, to find their place on the Forty Acres. In addition to hard work, Crank, a business honors and Plan II senior, said her faith helped her to push through trying situations.

“I read this verse in Habakkuk 3:19 that says, ‘The sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He takes me to great heights,’” Crank said. “I realized that it wasn’t my strength that I needed to rely on, but I could just be confident in God’s plan.”

Faith is a motivator for other student-athletes, too. Along with being a star player on the UT tennis team, Johnny Goodwin also serves as president for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Of all the experiences he’s had as a student-athlete, Goodwin, humanities and government senior, said the highlight is being a part of something bigger than himself.

“For me, (being a student-athlete) carries a sense of pride in the school and knowing that I was able to accomplish things both in the classroom (and on the court),” Goodwin said. “It’s beyond beneficial.”

For Crank, it’s not only student-athletes who put in hard work on the Forty Acres. She said such perseverance is universal with all UT students.

“The more I’ve been training, the more I realize that every chance to compete is just a chance to reap the harvest of all the hard work that we’re putting in every day,” Crank said. “I am just a small piece of the puzzle.”