November 12, 2021

Champion runner leaves worries in the dust with God leading the way

Lily Cridge’s joy has no limits as the junior from Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis celebrates winning the girls’ state championship cross country race of the Indiana High School Athletic Association on Oct. 30. (Submitted photo)

Lily Cridge’s joy has no limits as the junior from Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis celebrates winning the girls’ state championship cross country race of the Indiana High School Athletic Association on Oct. 30. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

For 16-year-old Lily Cridge, the unexpected meeting on the street was a sign from God—a sign that he would be with her through the challenge ahead, that she could put aside all her worries.

Five days earlier, anxiety had crept into her preparations for the girls’ state championship cross country race of the Indiana High School Athletic Association on Oct. 30—a race that Lily was the overwhelming favorite to win.

“On that Monday, I was feeling a lot of pressure and anxiety because I almost felt like I had to win,” says Lily, a junior at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. “I felt for the whole season that this is what everyone expected me to do.

“I see a sports psychologist every week, and we talked about it—that it’s a blessing to be in this position, that I’ve put in all the hard work. From then on, I switched to a mindset of thanking God for this gift and that I’m in this position. I prayed throughout the week for God to take the worries off of me.”

Then came the clinching moment when the worries disappeared for Lily, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. It happened as she was taking a walk with her dad on the Saturday morning of the race.

“This man in our neighborhood, Doug Brown, was passing by,” recalls the younger daughter of Matt and Jill Cridge. “We know him from the parish, and he asked if he could pray over me. At that point, I knew God was looking out for me that day. I do believe that was a sign from God. I knew then I could do this. I’d go out there and have fun.”

Lily’s joy radiated later that day as she won the state championship in stunning fashion, finishing more than 30 seconds in front of her nearest competitors.

She did it on a day when the rain fell, when the course in Terre Haute was marked by puddles, when it felt to her like “almost every step you’d sink into mud.”

And she did it all with a huge smile—and with two rituals that are part of her race-day routine.

The first ritual involves her teammate and friend, Mary Bea, making the sign of the cross on Lily’s forehead before the race. The second ritual is a reminder that it takes more than God-given talent to pursue a dream. All through the cross country season, Lily has written the word “DRIVE” on her right leg on race day.

“It’s a Bishop Chatard cross country tradition, from when one of our teams made it to state,” she says. “That year, they wrote something on their legs to motivate them. I’m always striving and driving to do my best in everything I do in life. I picked, ‘Drive.’ It helps me remember why I’m out on the course, and that God will drive me wherever I want to go.”

On the day of the race, her drive led her to an individual championship and the cheers and congratulations of her teammates, her parents, her extended family, her friends and a large contingent of supporters from her Bishop Chatard family.

“With all of them being there, the one word to describe it is ‘love,’ ” she says. “For them to drive all that way to see what I do, what I love to do most, I was amazed.”

During the celebration, Lily’s thoughts also turned to her older sister Gillian, a triathlete at the University of San Francisco who is one of Lily’s inspirations and who was cheering for her from afar. Their shared joy of running is part of their close bond.

“Running is pretty much my happy place,” Lily says. “I feel I don’t have to care about anything in the world. I don’t have any of the worries that I have in school. I can just be myself.”

A championship day that began with a sign from God ended with a prayer to him.

“When I was lying down in bed that night, I was thanking God he got me safely through the race. I was thinking about last year when I wasn’t able to run because I was injured.

“I was thanking him for how far I have come and how much we can do together.”
 

(Next week: Three state championship teams from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis will be featured.)

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