It took several minutes after the race before Phoenix’s Tabitha Sherwood was able to talk to anyone after winning the Little 500 on Friday.
She had given it her everything. And while every rider on the track gave it their everything, too, Sherwood’s everything was the only effort that was enough to come away with victory.
While it ends in joy for Sherwood and her Phoenix teammates, it means pain for those who gave it their all and it just wasn’t quite enough to beat Phoenix.
So when Delta Gamma’s Kristen Bignal came over to congratulate Sherwood, it felt like something special.
“So proud of you,” Bignal said to Sherwood as the two hugged.
“Proud of you!,” Sherwood answered.
Bignal, of course, was the rider whom Sherwood had passed at the very last second of the race. Sherwood had nosed her bike in front of Bignal’s about three feet before the start/finish line. The difference between the two was. 0.051 seconds. That’s less than a blink of the eye.
Bignal wasn’t the only rider who took a moment to approach Sherwood and talk about how happy she was to see Sherwood’s hard work pay off.
Kappa Alpha Theta’s Abby Rogers also took a moment to give Sherwood a hug.
Keep in mind, this was Rogers’ senior year, too. And a victory for Theta on Friday would’ve meant the first time a women’s team had ever won three races in a row.
“I love all of Theta,” Sherwood said when asked about the moment. “I love all those girls. I have a lot of respect for Theta. They put a lot of hard work into it. I have a lot of respect for DG, too. And pretty much everyone out here. It takes a lot of hard work to do this.”
It’s such a frenzy after the race, it’s impossible to see all of the people who come up to congratulate the winner. But I’m sure several other teams came up to congratulate Sherwood and the rest of the Phoenix team after an outstanding performance.
How often in sports do we get moments like that? When do people who train year round for something, sacrifice so much to try to achieve a goal, come up just short, and are able to step back and genuinely be happy for the people who made it to the top?
Perhaps even more rare, how often does the person at the top take time out to acknowledge how great an effort every one of her competitors gave?
It seemed like a great moment of humility on Sherwood’s part to take time to recognize that the day wasn’t just about her, or her Phoenix teammates. But that anyone who participated in Little 500, was willing to put it all on the line, put in hours on hours of training, and perform on one of the greatest intramural stages was deserving of enormous amounts of respect.
People sometimes ask why it’s so easy to love Little 500. Moments like that, when rivals can come together and tell one another that they’re proud of the other because each knows they left everything on the line, that’s just one small ingredient of why it’s easy to fall in love with these two days in April.