As in life, sports, too, are riddled with setbacks that can define an athlete for better or worse. How a player handles a misstep, taking it in stride or failing to ever fully recover, is telling of that individual’s makeup and mental toughness.
Manalapan’s Mary Grace Monahan has that toughness and it showed during the 2012 indoor track and field Central Group IV meet. Nearing the 200 meter mark of the 400, Monahan, who entered the race as one of the favorites, caught an edge and tumbled head first to the surface below as the field went past.
Monahan proceeded to pick herself up and sprint to the end for a shot at a top-six finish and a trip to the Group title meet, when again, the harrier was met with disappointment as her efforts were only good enough for seventh place.
“I was really focused on that race,” explained the junior, “and as the top seed I really wanted to win. But it didn’t work out that way. But I wasn’t about to let it keep me down. It was more motivating than anything else. It made me work harder to get back to that point.”
Monahan didn’t merely return to that meet this past winter, but put on a display those at the Bennett Center won’t soon forget. Manalapan’s emerging track star finished at a blistering sub-60 mark of 59.14 before exhibiting an incredible kick in the final 200 meters of the 800 event to pass up three opponents and capture her second individual title of the afternoon.
“With everything surrounding the meet after what happened, I was really nervous coming into it,” said Monahan, “but everything fell into place and I was so happy at the finish.”
“In the 800, there came a point where I was content with finishing fourth. I told myself that I was just going to run for fourth. Then I saw a chance to chase down third place, and then second, and finally a chance to take first if I used everything I had in me and I did. It was very surprising and a wonderful feeling.”
What is interesting about athletes who have an innate ability to overcome both physical and mental hurdles is how their surroundings off the playing field allowed them to develop such strong character traits.
In Monahan’s case, she was brought up in a military family, the fourth of eight children. Her father, John, is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Unites States Marines and her mother Marcela is a brigadier general in the Marines.
“I’m one of the middle children in a very large family,” explained Monahan. “I have seven other brothers and sisters so everything was a competition growing up. That, along with my family’s military background, definitely made me tougher, and a very competitive person.”
“I hate to lose at anything and to anyone,” she continued. “I don’t care if I’m racing against a world champion. If they beat me I’m going to be upset about it because I feel like I’m capable of winning every time out.”
An All-Shore First Team selection this past fall in soccer, this multi-sport athlete tries to carry that aggressive confidence into all aspects of her life, and will look to continue her success on the track this spring.
“I always try to link everything I do. I want to put 110 percent into every part of my life. I learned that in soccer, that you always have to prepare and put your best effort forward and I have prepared. So, I’m really looking forward to seeing my improvements when we get outdoors.”