When I was in high school, I constantly counted down the days until the next meet–even during non racing seasons. Yes, I delighted to seize opportunities in which I could push my body to its limits doing something I love, but something bigger ignited this longing for the next meet: fellowship. I deeply loved seeing and conversing with runners on other teams, and some of these athletes became my closest friends in high school. Cross country and track allowed me to form relationships with people I would never have met otherwise, due to our dispersion across the state.
After I graduated from high school, my former coach Dustin Llewellyn and his wife Tamra launched a nonprofit organization, striving to enhance and multiply these relationships. This organization–Nebraska Elite Track Club–provides ample opportunities for high school runners and coaches across the state to meet and connect with one another, including Saturday morning runs and summer camps. In fact, I was blessed to be a counselor and chaperone for an NETC summer camp last year in Colorado Springs.
Coming from Lincoln, Millard, Elkhorn and Papillion, the girls who attended the camp did not know each other prior their week in the mountains. During the camp, friendships were forged, and afterwards the girls connected–both on social media and at races.
“The young people I have been able to meet along my journey has made such a positive impact on me and my family,” Llewellyn said. “To be able to get kids across the state to share with each other a passion that they have for this amazing sport, share the love they have for each other and to be able to share their light for [God’s] glory.”
Before starting NETC, Llewellyn taught and coached at Millard South High School and Lincoln East High School. In these positions, Llewellyn’s love and enthusiasm reached several, but he felt called to serve further.
“As a coach I am able to impact 30 to 60 individuals, but [my wife and I] felt we could impact so many more,” Llewellyn said. “We wanted to love, serve, and care for this amazing community of coaches, student-athletes and parents and family who have given us so much. We want everyone to know that they are loved and they matter.”
You are loved. You matter.
Punctuating every “Week In Review” live Twitter show and most “Motivational Monday” Instagram posts, these two short phrases encompass NETC’s philosophy–an athlete’s worth is not tied to their race results. This mantra is the glue that holds all runners together, building bonds through love–a common gift from God we receive.
“We want everyone to know that they are loved and they matter,” Llewellyn said. “That is not dependent on if you are varsity or JV, what your marks are or anything tied to performance.”
The Llewellyns’ work is invaluable to the sport of running, standing as a testament to God’s eternal love. Too often, we define ourselves by the medals shoved to the back of our closet, though assessing ourselves in this manner is inaccurate. Medals collect dust and weather over time, but our worth does not. In the highs and lows of our running careers, Jesus’s love for us is unchanging. And because we are loved by a wonderful and powerful God, we all matter equally.
Encouragement. Love. Fellowship. Resilience. Through these values, NETC is changing–for the better–how we view running, and sport in general.