As the semester comes to an end, so too does a collegiate athletic career for many Maple Leafs. Being an athlete at Goshen College means different things to different people, so I talked to seniors who finished their final season to hear their thoughts.

Mathurin Allawai began playing soccer when he was growing up in Chad. He said, “I didn’t want to play soccer at first; I was more of a student … [but when] I was 4 years old my friends would tell me ‘Come, let’s play soccer’ since I was always in my room studying. They brought me out and I started playing soccer, and started liking it … It became like therapy to keep me out of trouble.”

He came to the United States in 2013 as a refugee and kept playing soccer. One motto of his is to “work hard and keep faith that anything can happen anytime.” Allawai reflected on his time at Goshen through some lessons he has learned: “I have to give my best. Even if I give my best and I lose, it is all part of the process. It has taught me to accept losing and keep going.” 

He also said a takeaway was to “live in the moment … have fun and enjoy it because back home people may not have the same opportunities.” 

Allawai plans to continue playing soccer after college.

Jackson Steinmetz, a fifth-year, decided to come back for one last cross country season. Steinmetz began running in junior high as a track athlete, and said that a lot of his inspiration to run was because of his sister: “She was a really good runner and I watched her run at state a few times. It was really exciting to see her run and it seemed like a good thing to do to stay in shape.” 

He continued track, and began to realize that he was getting good at distance running. He planned to play soccer and run distance track in college, but Coach Rustin Nyce told him to think about cross country. Steinmetz said, “I felt like I hadn’t tapped into what I could do [in running], so the next time I talked to Rustin I told him I would do cross country and track. … It has been such a positive experience.” 

This year was Steinmetz’s fourth year attending nationals with the cross country team. He said, “I felt like I finally earned the spot. … This season and a bit last season I began to feel like I actually know what I am doing.”

Although cross country is clearly competitive, running for Steinmetz “began as a journey of self-confidence.” 

“Running is a very centering activity,” he said. “You are focusing on your rhythm, steps, breaths … I let myself relax mentally [which] is another reason why it is so special. … It’s fun that it is both competition and meditation.” 

Steinmetz plans to continue his momentum: “I am not done running.”

Meaghan Godzisz’s tennis story began after a summer camp in second grade. “The first day I went, I got hit in the face,” she said, “and my parents were like, ‘shoot, she is not going to want to go back.’” She ended up loving it, went back, and has been playing ever since. 

When she was 10 years old she realized that she wanted to take it seriously and started playing in tournaments. Godzisz decided on GC because she had grown up taking lessons with Doug Gossman, the assistant tennis coach at GC. He urged her to come; she said, “it helped that I had a connection with him; it made me more open to coming here and continuing to grow as a player with him.” 

Godzisz remembers a key moment in her career where her friend from tennis was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. “Watching his story to get on the court while he was actively dying” moved her. “His perseverance through something so big and being able to relate it back to something so minuscule like tennis was so inspiring.” 

For Godzisz, tennis does not build character, but reveals it. She said, “It has helped me figure out who I am as a person through the sport, because there is something to be said with every reaction you have on the court. … Tennis is not life or death.” Godzisz hopes to continue playing tennis, but in a different way: “I will go out and hit some balls for fun on a Sunday afternoon.”

Gwyn Bellamy originally “hated volleyball because I would somehow always get hit in the head when I played, but I started playing because of my sister and grew a passion for it.” Bellamy started playing club volleyball, and one of her teams practiced in Goshen, so she began to create connections. “I had a couple of friends that committed to Goshen and I thought it would be fun to continue playing with them,” Bellamy said. “It also felt like home.”

At Goshen, she found leadership and friendships. Her team helped her become who she is today, and she believes that she is leaving behind a great program.

“Coach Jeff Phillips and Coach Brianna Foster have an amazing vision and philosophy, and I am excited to see where they take the program,” Bellamy said. “I am really going to miss playing with my teammates and being a part of a team where everyone supports and encourages each other.”

Although Bellamy is graduating, she plans to continue studying at Goshen for a master’s in social work and hopes to contribute to the team in a different way after her graduation. As she starts a new path, she said, “It is okay to struggle in your athletic career — there are a lot of demands and it can seem impossible. … I hope I was able to be someone on the team where they could come to for support.”