Salute to Seniors: Connor Daigle (Medomak Valley HS)

When and how did you get into track and field?

I got into track and field in the 8th grade. I primarily used the sport as a means to stay in shape for basketball. Fortunately, I found I love the sport more specifically distance running, and ultimately after my sophomore year, I made the decision to primarily focus on distance running. One of the best decisions I've ever made.

Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?

Although I have raced against many tough competitors on the trails and track, personally by far the toughest hurdle and biggest competitor I have faced has to be the battles faced within my mind. Mentally, competing in a sport that celebrates individual accomplishments as much as cross country and track & field, can be so mentally draining. It's you against yourself, every day 24/7. It's so easy to beat yourself up, compare yourself to others, and stress over where you should be in comparison to your peers. Over the course of my senior year, I started to develop a negative perception of myself as an athlete as I was constantly picking apart what I could have done better in my races and through my training. Through this battle I had within my mind, I eventually developed an eating disorder and started to overtrain. I wanted to do everything I could to become the greatest runner I could be, but in the process of doing so, I forgot what it meant to be human. I was no longer having fun in the sport, running felt like it was the only thing keeping me going in my life, and eventually, I hit a breaking point. I received a chronic stress reaction in my right knee. Although this injury cost me both my indoor and outdoor track seasons my senior year, personally If it weren't for the lessons I have learned throughout my time injured things could have ended up differently. Over my high school athletic career I have learned the importance of how to deal with these feelings, and importantly seek out help when things get bad. You will not be looked at as any less of an athlete if you reach out to get help, I am grateful I have been able to get rid of this stigma in my mind about how an athlete should handle their mental wellbeing.

What was your greatest accomplishment?

Has to be winning the cross country state title after taking 6 hard falls. Still amazes me how I was able to just keep getting back up and keeping pushing after sliding all over the place. It was a race of true grit, and I am glad I came out victorious.

How has track and field impacted your life?

Distance running has impacted my life in many ways, one of the biggest ways the sport has impacted me is through the community and people I have met through the sport. I have been able to meet some of my closest friends through this sport, as well as a love for exercise and nutrition. I am grateful to have been able to meet so many amazing people who have positively impacted my life all through running. I am grateful to have also learned the importance of how exercise and proper nutrition can play a critical role into living a happier and healthier life. The list goes on, but for the interest of time this is all I am going to write :)

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

After my state cross country meet my senior year I decided to ramp up my training doing 4 workouts and running 80 miles on the week. I was unsatisfied with my state meet performance. The consequences of this ambitious training led to an injury, a chronic stress reaction in my right knee. Of course I ran at new Englands with this injury, but after it got worse (as expected) and unfortunately I never really recovered from it until just now. Mentally this period of time was very demoralizing and detraining as for so long I have defined my worth by what I do (run) and the second running was taken out of my life due to injury I have felt completely lost. I have never been someone who has struggled with mental health but over these last few months I was going through my life without a sense of direction. I felt lazy, hopeless, and lost. Life sucked for a long period of time but in this time I was fortunate to have learned some valuable which have aided me towards having a more positive perception on my life and my training as a whole.I have learned to become more grateful. Instead of focusing on the negatives of my injury (and in life in general) I started to look at the positives there were and I started to live more happy and with a new direction. I have learned that life is unfair and that life also moves on. We can't stay stuck in the moment and stay angry for what is out of our control. Simply put, life is life, we can't change the past. Although I wish I could go back in time so I didn't injure my knee, I have learned throughout my time injured that there is more to my life than running. I can't let my inability to run ruin every other aspect of my life and this lesson I have learned has been game changing. God has a way of teaching, preparing, and humbling us as people. After finding successes I needed to be humbled and I thank god for doing so.

How do you prepare for competitions?

Mentally I remind myself of all the training I have done so when I put my foot on the line I know I have done everything I could to prepare for this race. As for pre-race mindset stuff I like to listen to some music, isolate myself from my competitors, and dig deep mentally to find a way to be angry. I run my best when I have a motive, something I need to prove in the race. And I get that motivation from finding aggression. Racing with aggression as they say I guess. Definitely helps to get rid of all nerves. Confidence and motive kill doubt.

What influence has your coach had on your high school career?

Coach Gould has been the best coach and role model I could have asked for. He has taught me and my teammates both past and present lessons that go far beyond the track and trails. I thank him for being the greatest coach, mentor, and friend over these past 4 years in high school athletics.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of track and field?

When I am not running I love to swim, ski, cycle, and hike. Love to cook, especially fish. I play the piano, and love to travel with my dog Sadie.

What are your college plans?

I will be running and studying at the University of Maine in Orono this fall. For my undergrad, I plan to study exercise science with a minor in psychology in pursuit of being accepted to grad school for physical therapy to become a physical therapist.

What are your long term goals?

To live a happy and healthy life with meaning and purpose whatever that looks like.

Who would you like to say thank you to?

Well firstly a big thanks to God, but also a big thanks to everyone who has had an impact on my life, positively or negatively you have helped shape me into the man I am today. thank you.

What advice you would give to younger athletes?

Put your love and enjoyment for the sport before anything else. The times and championships will come. Just stay patient, put in the work, and more importantly, have fun with it. This is your journey, make sure it's a fun one.