The End of a Chapter: Senior looks back on four years of running track

Andy Bernard from The Office once said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them.”

“I think track and field is exactly how I know,” senior Ben Louviere said.

The past four years have been a roller coaster and quite the ride for Louviere as he has finally approached his last couple days as a high school student. For this senior, track and field has played a part in his life that he could have ever seen coming.

“I’m not exactly sure how I got into track and field,” Louviere said as he sat on a piano bench, thinking back to six years ago when track and field was offered for the first time in seventh grade. “Track was more of a social thing than a competitive thing just because everyone did it, and it was super fun.”

Running around and goofing around was essentially the name of the game in junior high track. When Louviere moved up to the high school, the whole game changed. He quickly learned that it was a lot different — he learned what track and field truly was. Growing up, Louviere played basketball, football, baseball, wrestling and every other sport that involved practicing, winning, losing, growing as a team and having loads of fun; however, track and field was something much more unique and new.

“Track is such a team thing but at the same time such a personalized, individual experience where every single day it’s you against yourself, doing everything you can do to get better and improve yourself as an athlete,” Louviere said. “It’s such a cool feeling to practice every day with that in mind because the only goal is to get faster. That’s the bottom line. You don’t work on post moves or running routes. The only goal is to drop times by working hard every day.”

Another big thing the experienced senior emphasized is how it took four years to really understand and realize what it means to treat himself right when it comes to workouts, nutrition and lifestyle in general. “Knowing what I do now, I wish it would’ve been something I learned a long time ago, and it’s definitely a big part of my story,” Louviere said. “If I had to give advice to young track athletes, or really just to anyone in general, it’s to really understand that being successful is not just showing up and practicing for the couple hours that you’re supposed to, or doing the minimum requirements. It’s really about dedicating your lifestyle to achieving something greater. It’s a lot more than showing up and being successful for a little period of time. It’s what you do when you’re not at practice or when your coach isn’t watching.”

This past year, Louviere really took this to heart and learned what it meant to dedicate himself to something he believes in with all of his strength. Up until this year, for the most part, Louviere would just show up and manage to be naturally sufficient. He wasn’t breaking any records but was getting by and having fun, not really understanding what it meant to sincerely give it his all.

“Starting over the summer and into fall with offseason workouts, I figured something out personally,” Louviere said. “During lifts and workouts, I started to become a leader and was given the responsibility of leading younger people. It brought to me a whole new perspective on what it meant to just do the workouts versus fulfilling the workouts, because it’s not just doing the reps and heading home — it’s doing the reps and recovering right, eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, being socially responsible, and that’s a huge thing for me.”

Things began to change for Louviere when he first started track as coach Dirk Homewood began to chip away and instill some of the wisest, character-building virtues in him without the freshman even knowing what was happening.

“To me as a student athlete, Homewood has continually advocated for living both a healthy and productive life, treating my body well, being socially responsible and maintaining a focused attitude. These are things he has taught me that I now enjoy adhering to.”

Once the senior started to do things that are required to be successful in track, it began to shape his life as a whole, and many other aspects in his life improved drastically. “I found that I was happier and more confident in my own head space. I was looking at everything through a brighter lens,” Louviere said. “Every day is now so different because I’ve stepped on the track and been happy to work out. That’s honestly such a blessing because I’ve been able to shape my life to allow myself to feel that way, and a big part of that has been not just Homewood alone but the entire coaching staff, and, seriously, the biggest part is the guys we have on the team. Just everyone has brought that incredible energy, and it’s that energy that gets everyone so inspired to keep working.”

Off the track recently, Louviere has had an overwhelming number of people enter his life and support him in his efforts to pursue what he loves. These relationships have had exponential positive outward effects.

One of the biggest effects by far, though, is Homewood. Regarding his head coach, Louviere said, “Homewood is the man.”

If one were to ask any athlete on the team, that would probably be the first thing that comes to mind.  Homewood is the man. The former professional track star and highly decorated athlete has been the head coach of the men’s track and field team for four years now. Just like the seniors, he is finishing his fourth year with the same group of people, which makes the experience just a bit more special and bitter sweet. To say that he is a highly respected coach and man would barely even begin to scratch the surface of who he is in the eyes of his athletes.

“To have that caliber of a coach here at Cedar Falls High School really just leaves me in awe. Just because he’s so young yet just comes off as so wise. I guess, really, he just knows how to dig at that part of you that sometimes you don’t even know is there. He finds this flame in you, wherever it is in any athlete or person, and he knows exactly how in each individual case to just fuel that person — not just to become a better athlete but to become your best self,” Louviere said as he took a deep breath and laughed for a moment. “It’s convenient because as a track athlete, that’s what helps.”

There was a moment in the year when Louviere was called upon to set an example for younger athletes who were walking on a path that the senior once had been down, in previous chapters of his life. Homewood knew that Louviere had been there, so he called upon Louviere to be a role model for the younger athletes.

“It hit me so much that he, without me even realizing it, had taken my former self and who I was and crafted me into the exact role model that my former self would have needed. The end goal is that he crafts you into your own role model,” Louviere said.

The senior then went on to use the example of “If you bring a man fish, he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” To Louviere, Homewood truly does that.

Not only has Homewood been a defining role in Louviere’s four years at Cedar Falls High School, but so have all of his teammates who were just that — teammates. Now, however, they are some of the closest family Louviere said he will ever have.

Thinking back to his freshman year, Louviere can recall the super cool, talented and hardworking senior athletes that took the now-senior class under their wings. To have watched his teammates as freshmen grow into the same guys they used to look up to has been something beyond special.

“It’s weird, though,” he said. “It always seemed like we could always goof around, like things didn’t matter that much. I was worried that becoming seniors we would have to focus down, but it’s almost had the opposite effect. The more we’ve gotten older, worked out together and been a team together, it’s only gotten more fun and exciting. I also think that because we’re able to have so much fun together in that way, it’s so critical for the success of the team.”

That, however, has always been a known fact about the men’s track and field team. They have always been one team — one that has had a lot of fun together and has always been ridiculously close knit. The love and energy on the team is hard to describe and is most certainly the underlying foundation for the team.

“All the guys are so awesome, and I’m so thankful to be a part of that team that younger guys look up to, especially my brother,” Louviere said with a slight smirk.

To add on to the people who have impacted this senior’s life, one of the biggest would have to be the volunteer coach Nikki Pauli, who stepped in this year to help out the hurdlers simply because she loves the sport and the people. “She really has helped me translate what it means to be successful on and off the track with my lifestyle as a whole, and the ability she has to manage one million things at once is the most impressive thing in the universe,” Louviere said. The volunteer coach has found time to make it to practically every practice and meet with all four of her young kids by her side.

Looking back through the years, it’s easy to see that the sport of track has impacted Louviere in a life-changing way that is quite hard to put into words. The memories will be ones that will stick for a lifetime, and the relationships that have grown are nothing short of beautiful.

“I’m gonna miss the throwing team,” Louviere said as he laughed a little. “I’ll miss my legs feeling like Jell-O on the last 100 meters of a 400 meter hurdle race even though it sucks. I’ll miss running under the lights and running across the field screaming at the 4×4 relay at the end of every meet. I’ll miss watching my friends that I’ve worked out with forever. I’ll miss watching them cross the finish line first and break school records.”

Louviere then stopped and laughed for a good while before saying, “More than anything, I’ll miss Homewood’s famous morning jams in the weightroom, especially ‘Where the Hood at’ by DMX and ‘Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.’”

The senior may never run on the blue oval at Drake again, sprint up the 300 meter hill called Lookout or wake up and spot teammates on a front squat while listening to the same songs over and over again, but the impact that these things have had on him will forever clearly define him. A beautiful chapter is quickly coming to an end. However, this chapter will most definitely end with an ellipsis. It will never really come to a close.

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