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     Ambition: “A dream without ambition is like a car without gas. It’s not going anywhere.” – Sean Hampton, American actor.

As predicted, the Aberdeen runner was way ahead and had lapped many in the field as he breezed to the finish line.

Clearly, Aaron Ryan was no ordinary runner. I knew he was the state AA cross country champion, but this was the first time I’d seen him in track and field.

Only a junior, he already has colleges offering him scholarships and his coaches say he’s a great athlete and a great kid – good student, positive attitude, solid values and a volunteer mentor for others.

Because of grandchildren, I’ve been attending a lot of track meets this spring, reminiscent of a time in the early 1970s when I was covering them for the Huron Plainsman in my first newspaper job.  Depending on the location of the meet, my path would cross with Bernie Barnes of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, Lee Weishaar of the Aberdeen American News, or Denny Warrick of the Watertown Public Opinion. On those nice spring days, watching the kids compete was great fun; on not-so-nice days, we would shoot a photo or two, then head back to the office and call the coach for the results.

But I digress.

There’s no question that Ryan has a bright future ahead of him. However, as impressive as his performance was, just as interesting was the runner who placed last.

He wasn’t in the hunt for a win; he just wanted to complete the race.

He crossed the finish line to applause – for his grit and determination.

He set a great example for those graduating from high school this month. Most of the emphasis in our society is on high achievers. But the youth who isn’t blessed with great athletic skills and who still goes out for track or football deserves credit, too, because it is his determination that will carry him through life.

More success stories have been told about the person who succeeds because of his ambition and work ethic than about those who are blessed with unusual intellectual or physical ability.

I asked my friend Jerry Melcher, a South Dakota native who built a successful law practice in Alaska, if he won his cases because he was smarter than his opponents.

Though clearly not lacking in candlepower, Jerry said simply:  “I outworked them.”

He possessed the drive to succeed.

Once today’s high school graduates have determined what it is they wish to be, success is theirs if they have ambition.

May 22, 2019