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Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud, and how does it relate to the person you are?

When I hear the word accomplishment, I think of one thing. Flying over hurdles on the track. There is nothing like the knowing that the lead has been taken by me and having the honor of tearing through that red finish line tape.
When the first invitation for 100m hurdles is called, I instantly begin to get excited. Making my way down to the track I see my friends, smiling at the hope that I will be bringing home an additional win for the Paola Panthers. The man with the clipboard checks me in and places me in the middle lane of the last heat. I know these runners will have a passion for hurdles just as intense as mine, and get a bit nervous. Telling myself that nervous is good because it keeps the race interesting, I set my starting blocks to fit my legs and crouch to my first position. The stadium is silent. The pressure is on. A man with a little black gun with an orange ring on the barrel raises his arm into the air while yelling “On your mark, get set..” Boom. The event is off. Coming out of the blocks is my weak point, I stumble out of my unbalanced form and pull myself back quicker than I should. It takes half a second to regain my composure, and two girls are ahead of me. Knowing I can take home the victory for my team, I focus. The first hurdle is coming up. Instinctively I pull up my leg behind me and throw the front one over, like I came out of the womb jumping and running. It feels like I haven’t left the ground at all. Eight hurdles later and there is still one opponent in front of me. This is the time I need to shine. My speed quickly picks up and I soar over the last hurdle with nearly perfect form and overtake the leading runner.
I cannot think of a more appropriate word to describe my feelings when I’m running hurdles other than elation. It is one of the few things in my life that I know I can succeed at nearly every time. Hurdles was one of the activities I did that brought me out of my shell. At seventh grade, when I began the sport, I was the definition of shy. Little self-confidence from always being the average kid made me reluctant to try anything new. Among a few other things I finally gave in to trying, track and field was one of them. It made me realize something I had never experienced before: confidence.
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