As millions of Americans face challenges during this pandemic, there has been a drastic uptick in cases of mental health problems, from depression, to anxiety, to suicide.
This summer, that reality hit home for me when Mike Nobles, the father of my daughters' track teammate, unexpectedly took his own life.
My daughters are part of a tight-knit track family in Bronxville, NY. Their coach, Jim Mitchell, is nationally known for training some of the nation’s top runners. But to the girls, he was head of the “family,” and the “family” was “Mitchell’s Broncos” — plus us parents.
We traveled together, won together, lost together, celebrated together, and helped each other during difficult times. When my daughters were in their junior and senior years of high school, we lost a member of the family. Bronxville junior Delia Hayes’ dad lost his long battle with brain cancer.
Dennis Hayes would trek across any field in the state on New York to see his daughter fly over hills at a cross country meet, even when he was incapacitated by the disease. He always showed up to see his girl and we all felt the love.
It truly was — and still is — a big extended family. We took care of each girl’s injuries, dried their tears and cheered like crazy at the races. Us parents got to every meet early to map out where we each would be on the race course for maximum cheering effectiveness and great photos. My daughters’ dad, Jim Hoffer, along with track dads Peter Rizzo and John Campbell, would run all over the course finding the best spots to cheer quickly and then dash to the finish. We were a bit of SWAT team at these races.
I remember shouting at the first site of the girls in blue emerging around a corner or from a forest. Fellow running moms Beth Campbell and Charlotte Rizzo would sprint around the course with HUGE camera lenses, and let me tell you it was INTENSE! But it was all inspired by our love for these incredible girls who ran like the wind and left it all on the track or race course.
Some of our runners had nicknames —Emilie (pronounced Amelia) was “Meels” and we would shout “MEELS on wheels!” as she ran by. Same with Delia, who we called “Deels.” We just loved them all. I couldn’t help but cry every time our girls crossed the finish line. Whether in first place, fifth, or 25th, I would get weepy. Watching them run so hard for themselves and their team always made me incredibly emotional.
The girls have since graduated from college and have ventured out into this uncertain world. Many of us have moved out of Bronxville. But the “family” has stayed together. Bronxville track moms and dads, the coach, the girls — we are all still close —on multiple group texts, updating each other on our kids. We stay connected with pictures and bits of news on “where they are now.”
In June, we got the worst news from one teammate, Morgan Nobles. She was known on the team as “Morgs”—and she ran like the wind—all on a small petite frame, with a permanently beautiful baby face, and had the kindest heart a girl could ever have.
Her father Mike Nobles was with us on the sidelines of every race, her number one fan. These cross country and track meets were a family affair for the Nobles, with dad, mom Tsana, and her sister Lindsay (also a runner) at every race. Mike was the ultimate “track dad”, a successful CEO, and a big-time runner. He was also the LAST person we could imagine to take his own life, which he did on June 25.
Morgan herself picks up the story here, in her own words —with a call to action about men’s mental health.
In honor of Mike Nobles, and for everyone who is struggling during this uncertain time, let’s remember that a mental health crisis is upon us. We cannot ignore it.