Napoleon High School student-athlete Katie Sayles, left, talks with Coach Brian Beaman during a bowling match earlier in the year. Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.
By Jeff Steers
(April 17, 2020 5:14 PM) Napoleon High School senior Katie Sayles said she has learned perseverance and being mentally tough through participating in sports at the high school level.
Case in point, despite not having the prototypical athletic build, she is a two-time state qualifier in track and field.
She finished ninth at the state meet twice – the top eight earn all-state honors – missing out by a couple of inches each time.
And when school was canceled for the remainder of the year and Sayles cannot work out in Napoleon’s weight room, she uses a broom and two five-gallon buckets filled with liquid for weight training.
Talk about making the best of testing situations.
Sayles is one of the many senior student-athletes who had their season and career cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has shut down all of the United States and forced a lot of changes at different levels.
But the Napoleon – soon-to-be – graduate has moved on emotionally, already able to communicate with her Hillsdale College teammates. She signed to throw at Hillsdale College prior to the pandemic.
“It was pretty crushing when they announced that school and sports were canceled for the remainder of the year,” Sayles said Friday afternoon. “NCAA rules allow me to do Zoom calls with my Hillsdale College teammates once a week.
“Right now, we are all reading books on self-esteem and mental strength.”
Sayles seems to know a little bit about those two subjects. She has been throwing the shot put and discus for more than six years and has been a state qualifier in the shot put the last two seasons. As a sophomore she missed placing in the top eight by less than an inch. Last year she finished ninth again with a throw – 36 feet, 3.25 inches. That distance would have netted her seventh place in 2018 and an all-state medal.
Her motivation – besides being so close the last two seasons – is to set the school record.
“I threw the shot put 39 feet, 4.5 inches during an indoor meet this spring,” Sayles said. “That is only a quarter inch away from Napoleon’s school record.
“I have dreamed of beating the school record and have worked hard.
“But that is behind me right now, it is off to college.”
What is not behind her is the empty feeling of not seeing her friends and teachers from Napoleon. Sayles said when school was canceled due to the coronavirus in March, everyone expected to be back in school relatively soon.
“I really miss my friends and teachers,” Sayles said. “We never had a chance to say goodbye to our teachers and people in the buildings.
“It is really hard … but not the end of the world.”
Napoleon administrators have promised a graduation ceremony once the pandemic is lifted. Lessons learned along the way will help the NHS senior.
“Sports has taught me the value of perseverance and being mentally tough,” Sayles said. “You can’t win without both and a little hard work.
“That is escalated when it comes to sports. Competing in sports has made me a better person.”
Sayles will graduate from NHS with a gpa of 3.9 – on a 4.0 scale.
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