Micha Powell: A student-athlete’s experience with perseverance and living in the moment
A weekly series from the sprinter on balancing sports, school and life
Hey, all, Micha Powell here. Welcome to my video diary! I’m a recent University of Maryland graduate with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, three-time NCAA All-American and 2016 Canadian Olympian.
If you’ve wondered what it takes to be a track and field student-athlete and compete at the international level, look no further. With this weekly video diary, you can follow my journey from training as a student-athlete at UMD to representing Canada at the 2017 World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan, at the end of August. With my degree in broadcast journalism, I will use my reporting and editing skills to produce an in-depth look at the high-performance world of a 400-meter sprinter.
I am so fortunate to have had the most exceptional and rewarding experience of my life so far as a student-athlete at the University of Maryland. As I conclude this chapter of my life, I reflect on the past four years and all of the moments that have shaped who I am today and the people who have driven me to reach my full potential.
When I first arrived at the University of Maryland in 2013, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from myself (having only one year of competitive racing under my belt), but I knew that I wanted to leave an impact. I didn’t come into the track program as the fastest or the strongest sprinter, but I was eager to learn and grow. After my first few months at UMD, I quickly developed good habits, which enhanced my recovery rate between workouts and made me a better athlete. My nutrition and sleeping regimen elevated my training and eased my transition into being a full-time student and athlete. My greatest achievement was earning straight A’s in all of my courses and competing at both indoor and outdoor NCAA championships my senior year of school.
However, throughout the year, as I started to add more pressure on myself, there were some days when I didn’t think I would be able to achieve everything I had planned. The stress of maintaining a 4.0 GPA my last semester at UMD, racing with the hopes of bettering my personal bests and planning my future became a weight so heavy that it kept me paralyzed with fear. It brought forth irrational fears and doubts that made me wonder whether I was fast enough, smart enough or even a good enough person to compete for Maryland. I have to credit the guidance of my coach, Andrew Valmon, and assistant coach, Danielle Siebert, for reminding me that it’s OK not to be perfect all the time and it’s OK not to accomplish everything I want all at once. They made me realize that I had to be grateful for all of the things that I have already done for the program and remember that I am still so young to the sport and have more time to improve.
Realizing that I had the power to positively affect other people just by being a student-athlete alleviated a lot of that stress. In the airport, I would run into strangers who would wish me good luck in my future competitions, and I could feel how proud they were to see another generation continuing the athletic legacy of the Maryland Terrapins. Some of my favorite conversations I’ve had as a student-athlete happened when I visited elementary schools to talk to young kids about the importance of athletics and living a balanced lifestyle while in college. Every child would ask me innocent questions like what I ate at school and if I got to see my friends a lot. These interactions made me realize that I had to let go of my anxieties and worries about not being the best and focus on what I had in the moment. These children’s points of view made me realize that no matter how stressful life can get, if you take a moment to appreciate the simple pleasures in life and not obsess over what is out of your control, your life can be uncomplicated and absolute.
Within four years, I have become the indoor and outdoor 400-meter record holder at the University of Maryland, a three-time NCAA All-American and a 2016 Olympian. Being a student-athlete has taught me the value of perseverance. If I don’t succeed the first time, I’ll try again and again until I reach my goal. Even if it takes longer than I intend, it’s the journey that helps me realize how far I’ve come and keeps me hungry for more. I look forward to taking the wonderful experience of being a track Terp with me to international postcollegiate competitions and always representing UMD track and field in my heart.
- Read Micha’s past diaries here.