Last Sunday Shalane Flanagan broke the tape at the New York City Marathon finish line two hours and twenty six minutes after the race began, becoming the first American woman to win the coveted race in forty years.
I’ve always cheered for Shalane. I’ve never met her, but her mother - Cheryl Treworgy - is one of my favorite people.
I first met Cheryl at the 2008 United States Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR.
She was one of the roughly two dozen sports photographers covering the event.
The Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR, was one of the first major sporting events I covered, and my only real-world practice running cameras and transmitting images before the Beijing Olympics later that summer.
I met Cheryl on the first day of the event as Bill introduced me to everyone we would be working along side for the 10 day event. Cheryl was immediately kind and helpful. Maybe it was because I was clearly the youngest person there. Maybe it was because she and I were two of the only women photographers. Maybe she could tell I was nervous and a little overwhelmed by all the events at a track and field meet. Regardless, she helped me decipher all the events - where they were starting and ending, what angles were available and who the best athletes were.
She seemed to know not just a lot about the sport, but a lot about individual athletes.
“You know that song, ‘Hey There Delilah,’” she asked me as we were photographing the women's 3000m steeplechase?
I nodded, it was a very popular song in 2008.
“It was written about her,” she said pointing to runner Delilah DiCrescenzo.
She had other tidbits about training schedules, personalities and competitiveness.
I didn't know just how connected Cheryl was until the first final of the event - the women's 10,000m.
The women's 10,000m is always the first final and always on the first night.
That night in Eugene was a lovely summer evening, cook enough for a fleece and perfectly clear.
It had been a busy day of heats on the track and finals in the field, so I was scrambling to finish transmitting before the opening gun. When I got back to the track I saw Bill and Cheryl laughing together before Cheryl walked across the track to the infield to a “good luck” from Bill.
“Good luck,” I asked back to Bill, confused?
“Her daughter is Shalane Flanagan,” he told me. “She’s the favorite to win tonight.”