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When our kids accomplish big things, we teach them to temper their celebration of personal triumph with a touch of humility - and then we celebrate with them.
When my friends' kids accomplish big things, I celebrate that, too - no humility necessary.
Today I celebrate Sean McLean, 19, the youngest child of Gwen and Terry McLean.
Sean was the ring bearer at our wedding. A few years later, he was running through the yard that made me and Gwen childhood neighbors - and makes us all neighbors now - being chased by my formidable 4-year-old, who credits Sean with "my first strawberry," a knee-scar from a tumble while trying to catch him.
Little did we know then, it'd be hard to run faster than Sean.
Last week, Sean and his older brother, Jay, flew to Eugene, Ore., for the year's biggest track and field meet, the USA Junior Nationals, where Sean won the 200 meters with a time of 20.64 seconds to seal his spot on the USA team.
Sean, coached by Kesrick Fraser since 2009, placed fourth in the 100 meters for a USA 4x100 relay team spot.
It's been fun over the years conjecturing where Sean's witty personality and striking athleticism would lead him. I figured an amazing gymnast. His mom wondered whether his boyish charm and fashion sense might lead to modeling. I agreed.
"Jay told him track was good to do in the football off season to stay in shape," mom Gwen said. "Once he started, all he really wanted is to beat Jay's time of 10.5 in the 100. Then, he'd be done with track."
But, Sean said, "It became a passion."
Sean ran his first 100 race as a freshman at Southeast Raleigh High School. His time: 11.76 seconds.
In 2009, Sean met Fraser.
"Sean is easy to work with," said Fraser, a former collegiate and professional runner. "He learns very quickly and remembers everything he's taught, which makes it better to go out and execute his race."
Last year, at the 2010 New Balance Nationals, a meet of the nation's best high school track and field athletes, Sean beat his brother's time with a personal record of 10.48 in the preliminary 100. In the finals, Sean ran a 10.41. Later, in California, Sean won the 2010 Junior Olympics title in the 200 with a time of 21.44.
On June 18, Sean defended his New Balance National title, winning his second consecutive title in the 100 with a PR (personal record) of 10.31. At the same meet in Greensboro, Sean set a new national record of 20.62 in the 200, breaking a record set the last time his brother ran in the national meet, then known as the Nike Outdoor Nationals, on June 18, 2005. Sean was 15.
In the Adidas Grand Prix in New York earlier this year, Sean ran a 10.48, coming in second.
Feeling honored to chat with anybody who's any kind of world-class anything, let alone the son of my daughter's godmother, I asked Sean for answers I hadn't before:
Q. How does it feel to be on the U.S. Junior National team?
A. It feels really good. It's a great experience for me.
Q. You grew up playing team sports. How is individual competition different?
A. I put out what put in. I don't have to rely on anybody else's work ethic.
Q. When did you realize you're fast?
A. Not until my junior year. Before then, I doubted myself because at the bigger track events, I wasn't making the finals. I guess I progressed a lot my junior year.
Q. What made the difference?
A. My coach and I got a lot more one-on-one time. That really changed my view of the sport. I thought track was just about running, but I came to realize it's more of a mental sport.
Q. What's your ultimate goal?
A. I would love to be in the Olympics next year, to at least make that team - that's an ultimate goal. There's no reason to train like I do and not try for the U.S. Olympic team.
Sean, a 2011 graduate of Word of God, is making moves for college. I've heard chatter about school in Texas, at Methodist College in Fayetteville or at Midtown's St. Augustine's College.
Sean's mom and I grew up together. I was with her at her first fender bender and when she met Terry.
As parents, we know the vulnerable trial-and-error of chaperoning our children's discovery of interests and talents that unlock destinies.
We chauffer them and shuffle schedules. We juggle fees and journey successes and failures, ready with shoulders for leaning and levers for redirection.
When we celebrate our children, we celebrate each other.