We end the year on a promising note even though we did hit a rough patch along the way. That rough patch came in April with the Boston Marathon bombing and the serious injury to one of our own — Erika Brannock — and the death and injuries to others.
But in the aftermath of tragedy, there came triumph in a number of different ways. Here are some of the ones that I saw in 2013:
It was Tatyana McFadden's year. The star Paralympian was the first athlete to win six gold medals at a championships during the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon. She also became the first individual to win the wheelchair division in the Boston, Chicago, London and New York Marathons. The quartet of races is known as the Grand Slam. It's a list of accomplishments that leaves me speechless.
As a community, we continued to rally to the aid of those who were injured or struck down by illness. Erika Brannock is a prime example, but we should not forget Zach Lederer and Annie Leslie and the battles they face daily. We immediately came to their aid financially and in terms of verbal support when their stories were made public. We should continue to support them and all others who suffered in 2013. They need to know that we care now and in the future.
There were multiple organizations that talked the talk and walked the walk, contributing large sums of money to charities in 2013. The triathlon people themselves have contributed millions over the years and others are doing outstanding work helping others less fortunate.
Volunteering is an area where we continue to excel. I shutter to think what would happen if people decided to stay home and not offer their services to organizations and our school system in terms of booster clubs. Things don't get done in a vacuum and often that means long hours with no recognition. I sincerely hope that all of us recognize the importance of those volunteers that are willing to step up and do the work.
Opportunities are still available for those who wish to start a new program. In the last couple of years, at least two new sports have been introduced. Gone are those days when people called about bringing in a new sport and their calls were not returned. New programs usually are slow to take root here. Perseverance is important.
Our high schools continued to play and succeed at a high level. Too many people still regard success as winning at the state level. Not so. First, we should be aware of just how difficult it is to reach those levels, and secondly we must recognize that teaching life skills and character in young people is important and should not be marginalized.
The word concussion was bandied about here and nationally, and will continue to be for years to come. Football gets the most headlines, but other sports are also involved. Howard County moved aggressively in this area and remains on the cutting edge. I saw some of the technology on the horizon and I was impressed. I hope that it becomes available soon. It may not eliminate concussions totally but it may further reduce them.
We have great sports facilities in the area and they seem to be getting better every year. I can say that with certainty because I know what facilities were like in 1969 when I came to Columbia. Some of those older buildings have been renovated and others will need to be cleaned up or replaced. New facilities have been built to accommodate the population growth.
We do not accept the status quo. We are always trying to make things better. The high school fields are making the transition to being replaced with turf. Gone are the days of slipping and sliding through the mud, as six of the 12 schools already have turf installed and plans are in place for the other schools to follow in the near future.
Howard County again proved that it is one of the finest communties in the nation for sports, and 2014 will undoubtedly see more of the same.