Most athletes have gone through a few down periods in their sports careers.
While it’s always preferable to taste victory, sometimes personal struggle is necessary in order to grow.
That theme was hit on several times Monday evening at San Carlos Restaurant in York when the Quarterback Club of York held its annual awards banquet.
Emma Leik, a standout cross country runner at York Suburban High School, has had to muster the ability to overcome a serious obstacle — a condition called compartment syndrome. Leik, who helped lead the Trojans to a District 3-AA title in 2014, was tested mentally and physically by the condition that was diagnosed just before her senior season.
Her story was shared with those in attendance at the banquet by her cross country coach at Suburban, Dan VanHouwe, moments before she was awarded the Thomas V. Chatman Jr. Memorial Scholarship. The award carries a $1,000 scholarship for Leik, who plans to attend Temple University.
“Emma has gone through a lot of struggles this year,” VanHouwe said. “She was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, in which the muscles in the leg fill with fluid and tighten up. She went through surgery this past summer and she was very excited. She said ‘I’m going to run again.' And she got to run (two) races and she did very well.”
Leik, however, is dealing with the condition again. She had surgery in January, which has limited her ability to walk right now. She is hopeful to be back on her feet within a week.
“The toughest part was mentally being there and watching everybody else run while I had to just sit there,” she said. “But I made the most of it. I had fun cheering my teammates and watching them progress throughout the year."
As proud as VanHouwe was of Leik’s ability to overcome her first surgery to run a couple of races two months later, he was most pleased to see her transform into a true leader.
“She was at every practice,” he said. “Even though she couldn’t run. She was at every meet. And I remember we were walking a 3.1-mile course and some of the kids were getting a bit too chatty and she said, ‘Hey, get focused.’ And when Emma spoke, everybody got quiet and listened.”
Erickson: Spring Grove senior Nick Erickson, who was awarded the club's Charles Larson Memorial Scholarship, was inspired by Leik’s story.
“Hearing everyone’s stories, especially Emma’s, was really inspiring,” Erickson said.
Erickson’s award carries with it a $1,000-a-year scholarship for a total of $4,000 over four years. As of Monday, he hadn’t made up his mind on his college choice.
“I have a Division II offer at Bentley University,” he said. “I also have a couple of Division III institutions. I’ll choose, to be honest, probably tomorrow.”
As a running back for the Rockets this year, Erickson was a huge asset for first-year head coach Kyle Sprenkle.
“This was my first year being the head coach at Spring Grove High School,” Sprenkle said. “But this was Nick’s fourth year being in the varsity program. With me being a newbie to the program, Nick made my job a whole lot easier. Not only is he a great person, but he’s a great teammate. And with his leadership, this season was a lot more successful because of him.”
Success wasn’t an expectation when the Rockets headed into this season. With a new coach at the helm, there were more than a few in the school and in the community who doubted the squad.
Such whispers didn’t disappear when the team began the season 1-3. Erickson and company, however, were able to get things turned around by winning four of their final six games to earn a District 3-AAA playoff berth.
Erickson, who finished with 793 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns for the season, felt humbled by the honor.
“You just can’t be great alone,” he said. “I have to thank my family. You have to have people pushing you through your whole trip through life. And I want to commend Coach Sprenkle as well. When you get a new coach it’s usually supposed to be a rebuilding year, but he just took on everything so well. We had some doubters in the school and the community, but we overcame that and were successful.”
Other award winners: Along with Leik and Erickson, four other York-Adams League athletes were honored as well.
The football Players of the Year in York-Adams Divisions I, II and III — Jake Jansen (Dallastown), Thomas Merkle (York Suburban) and Kyle Krout (Hanover) — were given golden footballs to commemorate their successful seasons.
Dallastown senior Tessa Myers, a girls’ volleyball player, was presented the “Sandy” Kranich Memorial Scholarship, which carries a $1,000 award.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.