Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cherae Reeves Prepares for Life after Track

For Concordia Moorhead's Cherae Reeves this year's NCAA DIII Outdoor Championships will be bittersweet.  She's been throwing the shot since sixth grade and the NCAAs will be the end of the line for her serious athletic pursuits.  No Olympic dreams.  No plans to keep on throwing.

Instead she'll be transitioning into the working world.  Her chosen field being occupational therapy.  She wants to work with kids.  Help those facing challenges to deal with those challenges and have a better life.  More specifically she'd like to work with autistic kids, help them deal with a world that views them as different. She's experienced that feeling herself. Being tall, gifted, and black and you stick out in the crowd.

Her teammates helped her get past that, feel accepted.  Her freshman year indoors, she didn't qualify for nationals. Didn't make the finals in regionals, she said.  She was struggling. But her teammates supported her.  Told her they accepted her for who she was, not how far she could throw a round metal ball.  From feeling isolated and lonely, Reeves got past that through their support.  So, while now she'll have more time to spend on other things, such as her career, she'll miss the camaraderie.  The support.  The structure and discipline.  "From January to May you always knew where you'd be and who you'd be with at 4 o'clock," she said of daily practice.
Cherae Reeves(left) talks with a teammate during the warm ups at
the MIAC Championships. Photo by Jim Ferstle

The routine will be different now, but it's not as if she hasn't planned for this next phase of her life.  A native of West Fargo, ND, Reeves was good enough in high school to finish second in the North Dakota in the shot and draw the attention of athletic recruiters.  Bigger schools.  More emphasis on athletics.  For Reeves what mattered was that the college would be close to home.  Be strong on academics.  She then had thoughts that medical school might be a path she might end up taking. "I told them that I'm not going to a school for athletics," Reeves said of her conversations with the recruiters.  "I want to go to a place where I can get a good education."

What clinched the decision for Concordia, however, was none of the above, although all that was present.  She chose Concordia, she says, because when she toured the school the people she saw on campus "Generally looked like they were happy at what they were doing."  Yes, they told her that their science majors were able to get into medical school.  That the curriculum wasn't just routine, but that the teachers and students were encouraged to "think outside the box."

At Concordia Reeves majored in biology and Spanish.  Instead of pursuing a career as a doctor she is now looking at the Sanford lab in Fargo or the North Dakota Autism Center as possible places to take her first steps in her pursuit of her occupational therapy career.  Her throws coach Dave Reuter said he noticed an attitude change in Reeves this year.  That she was more supportive of her other teammates, giving them advice, boosting their self confidence, cheering them on.  Much like her older teammates had done for her when she was a freshman.

Much like her coach in the seventh grade who told a young girl who he saw had potential and said she should give it one more try when she was on the fence whether or not this throwing balls stuff was worthwhile. Now, instead of being taught, Reeves will be the teacher, the confidant, the enabler. And success won't be measured solely by what she does, but rather what she's able to inspire in others.

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