Britt Taylor writes a letter to his East Lake athlete Parker Valby -- the Florida 3200m state record holder.
By Britt Taylor - East Lake High School Cross Country and Track Coach
Dear Parker Valby,
Never in a million years would we ever have guessed how this chapter would have ended.
Sometimes life throws us curveballs that we just have a tough time handling. I've spent 99% of my time during this pandemic thinking about how fortunate we are. Fortunate for our health, our families, and past accomplishments. But sometimes I can't help but think about that 1%.
The what if?
I know you had so many goals. Your work ethic is undeniable. Unquestionably the best I have ever seen. Everything you accomplished, you earned. All the recognition and awards, you deserved. But it wasn't supposed to end like this.
We had one more trip to FSU Relays. One last invite mile at UF. Another team trip to state filled with IG takeovers and tiktoks. Another shot to etch your name in the history books. To further prove why you are the best 2 miler to ever come out of the state of Florida.
As I spent some time thinking about the lost opportunities to witness what made you great, it always brought me back to the journey. I still remember asking you to come out for the track team, and how upset I was when you told me no. But thankfully I didn't give up... And thankfully, you gave it a try.
Things didn't come easy for you, which makes your story even better. You had struggles. Struggles with your form. Me calling you out everyday in practice telling you I wasn't going to let you compete until you learned how to run.Telling you that you can't be successful running the way you do. And you telling me, "Oh really? Watch me".
Struggles with yourself. Are you doing enough? Is your image what it's supposed to be? I'll never forget the many phone conversations I had with your mom. When she was in tears because she is truly your best friend and was trying to help you find your way.
These struggles make you who you are. They make your accomplishments all the more enjoyable. I'll never forget the many late nights at the track doing speed workouts. Talking pacing as you struggled to compute BASIC track math even though you have a 4.6 GPA.
Your success wouldn't have been possible without your parents. I can see you rolling your eyes now. Always there to support you and always supporting me as a coach. I'm equally grateful for the friendship I gained with them and the example they set for all of my other track families.
There is no better feeling than watching your athlete succeed on the biggest stage.
Four days before last years state meet we did our last tune up workout. It went great as the majority of your workouts do... But that's not what makes you special. As we were talking in between reps I told you that I bet you couldn't run 10:15. Just as you like telling me how slow I've gotten over the years, I have always liked trying to tell you that you couldn't do something.
2019 FHSAA 3A 3200m Final
We didn't know it at the time but your junior year was the last time you were going to be able to compete at the state championships. Which I guess was a good thing. There was already enough pressure. Your two dream schools, UF and UNC were in attendance and a state title was on the line. You executed the race plan to perfection. But like any other race it came down to heart, grit, and determination.
That night, not only did you prove you belong, but you gave all of us a performance that we will never forget.
A state title.
A state record.
A full scholarship.
All the struggles, doubt, or second guessing disappeared in that moment. I gave you a hug seconds after crossing the finish line. With the biggest smile on your face...me more out of breath than you... you looked at me and said..."you owe me a $100". I literally forgot. But one thing I'll never forget.
Don't tell Parker Valby that she can't do something.
Your forever proud HS coach
East Lake High School