Just under a year ago, our community lost a fellow Wildcat, Stephen Rathbun. Throughout the following months, many Northview residents have felt the impact of his loss in a variety of ways, but few groups more than the cross country team. As one of the most encouraging and uplifting members, the team had to make it through a whole season without Stephen’s smiling face.
“It was his positive attitude and energetic personality that wasn’t there,” senior Eli Fournier, a close friend of Stephen’s, said.
As a sport that can be seen as mostly individual, many are surprised to find out how tightly knit a cross country team can be. Encouragement and motivation are key to pushing fellow runners to their best. These are qualities Stephen embodied.
His coach, Jim Haveman, remembers how he would always put others before himself during practices and meets, which is why for the 2017 season Haveman instituted the “Encouragement Award.” This will be given to the runner who represents all the best attributes of Stephen throughout the season, a way the team plans to honor the memory of their teammate.
A second way of preserving Stephen’s memory was by adding the phrase “Thank you Stephen” to the back of the team shirts. A simple, yet powerful message that everyone in Northview can see, these shirts were important for many people.
“[Coach] Wojciakowski had a great idea that we should thank Stephen for everything he brought to the team and who he was as an individual,” Haveman said.
Stephen’s parents appreciated the detail. As huge supporters of their son and his cross country team, they remained avid fans of the wildcat runners throughout the season and made sure to cheer at every meet they could make. At the beginning of the season they had the whole team over for a meal, bringing everyone closer to Stephen and his memory.
Although a great runner and even greater friend was lost last December, the cross country team is able to push on and remember all the good that Stephen did during his life. By motivating others to embody the characteristics of their fellow runner, the team is setting an example for all to be the most encouraging and uplifting they can be. Even if Stephen’s time at Northview came to an end too quickly, his legacy and what he stood for will remain with the cross country team.