Four years ago, Catie Malone, DSHA ’19, was a freshman looking to make new friends and immerse herself in her high school experience.
Like many other freshmen, she turned to DSHA athletics. Following in her mother and older brother’s footsteps, she took up long-distance running and cross country.
She became a leader and role model for both her teammates and those living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT), a condition she’s struggled with as long as she can remember.
All she’s known
CMT is a form of muscular dystrophy that varies from person to person. This condition causes damage to the peripheral nerves, which emit signals from the brain to the muscles. These signals travel much slower in Malone’s body than in others, and eventually the slow signals will cause damage to her muscles, causing them to break down over time.
While Malone says she’s been stable, her condition does cause some difficulty while running, especially affecting her balance and speed.
Even though Malone faces a far bigger challenge than all of her teammates do when running, she is inspired by a DSHA Cross Country saying: “Run for those who can’t.”
“There are kids my age who have muscular dystrophy and are in wheelchairs and can barely even move their arms,” she said. “I’m sure they’d give just about anything to be able to walk or run, so I continue to run for them.”
Leadership through dedication
DSHA Cross Country athletes like Bonnie Raechel Beres, DSHA ’19, were in awe over Malone’s commitment to the team.
“Never once did Catie openly feel sorry for herself or say anything negative; she showed up strong, every day, no matter what,” Beres said.
But showing up was just one part of her commitment to her team. She did whatever she could to encourage her teammates and lead by example while running alongside of them.
“Because running is such a mental sport, it’s important during the run to help everyone succeed, not just physically in running, but also to be positive mentally,” Malone said. “I think (being mentally positive) is easy when you have girls around you to talk to you, or girls you can look at and see that even if it seems like a hard run, they’re not giving up.”
Beres said that Malone was a resilient racer. Despite the pain and occasional fall, she always finished. She also helped her teammates get to the finish line.
“Catie never failed to brighten our days,” she said. “When running, she initiated uplifting conversations, and when not running, she cheered us on, helping us to become our best selves.”
Leadership through perseverance
To practice staying mentally positive, the DSHA Cross Country teammates share their “running stories.” These include how an individual started running, why she continues to run, and her running journey.
Malone has addressed her teammates before, discussing her condition and her love for running. “I just hope to inspire people,” she said. “Especially to persevere while you’re running, because I know it can be so much easier to start walking or give up, but trying your best is so worth it.”
Head Cross Country Coach and DSHA English Faculty Andy Lelinski took notice of Malone’s commitment and perseverance despite struggling with CMT and nominated her for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Courage Award.
“While most people possess an instinctual knowledge of knowing how to run, (Catie) actually has to think about putting one foot in front of the other,” he wrote. “Every step she takes, running or not, is one about which she makes a conscious decision.”
The Courage Award recognizes individuals who refuse to let personal or physical challenges get in their way of their desire to be an athlete. Malone, along with two other athletes in the greater Milwaukee community, received the award in early May. They addressed the best athletes in the Milwaukee area during the award ceremony, and even met Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps.
“It means a lot as someone with CMT just to show what people with certain hurdles can still do,” Malone said of receiving the award. “You can do a lot more than you think.”
Malone is not only an example of someone with CMT who achieved, but also an example of a Dasher who achieved through a different kind of leadership and a continual demonstration of perseverance.
“Catie chose to show up every day and fight through all the pain she knew would come along with it,” Beres said. “By doing so, she proved that we are all capable of accomplishing whatever we set our minds to. Her example helped us become better athletes, better racers, and overall better people.”
DSHA Quality of a Graduate: She is a Leader — She is a LEADER who takes initiative, leading by inspiration and influence. A skilled collaborator, she uses her full potential to motivate individuals and groups to accomplish goals and achieve dreams. She is inclusive, hopeful, and highly ethical; as a visionary leader, she is accountable to herself and to others, bravely forging new paths and building new connections.