She couldn’t hold them back any longer.
Bureau Valley’s Helena Osk Arnadottir’s eyes started to glisten with a coat of fresh tears. She tried to blink fast, and even deployed a swift swipe of her left hand to whisk away the salty liquid, but they just kept coming.
Tears come from extreme emotion, good or bad, and Arnadottir was experiencing an overwhelming mix of the two.
Some were happy tears, and some were sad tears. I couldn’t figure out which was which, but you could almost see her mind working overtime, trying to process everything. She said as she was thinking about everything, her mind was acting like a flip book, quickly pawing through memories.
“This is overwhelming,” she said with a shaky voice. “If you would have told me that I would come here, and be third place in state, I would have laughed at you. This can’t be possible, or real.”
Oh, but it is.
Arnadottir and her Bureau Valley relay mates of Tiana Kennedy, Sabrina Webb and Lindsey Hoffert recorded a new school-best time in the 1,600-meter relay during Saturday’s finals of the Class 1A girls state track and field meet at Eastern Illinois in Charleston.
The four ran a time of 4:01.59, and Arnadottir, a foreign exchange student from Njardvik, Iceland, will be forever cemented in Bureau Valley track history.
The time set a school record, as the four unseated the previous record of 4:02.23 set in 2006.
What makes this moment for Arnadottir so special was she came to Manlius, a small town in Illinois, with hopes to experience life in the United States.
What she wound up with was a rolodex of new friends, and even left a lasting mark on a school that opened her eyes to track and cross country.
“I can’t believe any of this,” she said, before turning away to collect herself. “This is really amazing.”
It was quite something to see. Here is a girl who has never ran track in her life, and no one figured – especially her – that the sport would change her life.
Most athletes are moved to extreme emotion based on winning and losing, but Arnadottir was flowing with emotion based on her journey over the past 10 months.
She told me that she couldn’t imagine heading back home in June. It almost slipped her relay mates’ minds that they would lose her, too.
After she spoke about her home, she was enveloped in hugs from her teammates.
“It’s funny how this all came together,” Webb said. “She is a wonderful friend, and one of the hardest workers I know.”
As the four posed for pictures with medals draped around their sunburnt and sweaty necks, they made sure to comfort their new friend and soak up the moment.
Hoffert, a junior and the relay’s leader, saw the teary-eyed Arnadottir and smiled.
“I am so happy for her,” Hoffert said. “We couldn’t have done any of this without her. For her to be able to come over to a foreign country and change the people around her, that is special.”
Patrick Mason is a sportswriter for Sauk Valley Newspapers.