Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
Maddie (McClellan) Van Beek has had a tumultuous 12 months. It all started last season after she received the paralyzing news after the Drake Relays that her then-fiancé would begin a long battle for his life. The Bison track star and future English teacher put her acclaimed running career on hold and stood next to her boyfriend as he fought brain cancer. Last summer, before the surgery, Maddie and Daryl Van Beek got married and so began the long road to recovery. As Daryl finds his footing back in the real world, Maddie is dedicating herself to finishing her track career as strongly as it started her freshman year.
Bison Illustrated: You had an eventful summer. How is Daryl feeling?
Maddie Van Beek: “He’s doing really well. He has to go back in April. He has to do check-ups for a while, but he’s feeling back to normal. He’s finally in a normal routine like a normal human being. … He works for an insulation company, Cross Insulation in West Fargo. He had switched companies and he had only been working there for about a month when he found out (about his cancer) so we were just so lucky that he was even on health insurance by having the recent switch, because he went about a month without. It just blew my mind how lucky we were, because everything worked out to where he was covered and he was able to get a lot of help in that way. He’s back at work full-time and just enjoying life.”
BI: That’s a relief. So what was it like talking about the experience during the commencement speech you gave to the Winter 2014 NDSU graduates?
MVB: “I was a little nervous about it, but I thought someone cared about me enough to nominate me then I should probably do it, so I went for it. I didn’t know exactly what the process is like and how rigorous that would be and I had to go through quite a few meetings, go record your speech on video and then give your speech in person and then do an interview. It was kind of intense, but I’m really glad I did it.”
BI: What inspired you to use your and Daryl’s story and to come up with the “overcoming adversity” theme?
MVB: “I didn’t go straight to it because I wanted to keep it open and think of what kind of message do I really want to send? It’s my whole graduating class and the people I went to school with, what do I want them to leave with? It was just obviously so close to my heart and on my mind all the time so for me, sometimes when you give a message, it means the most to give it through an experience you went through, something you can share as your own experience.”
MVB: “This is my last semester, which is just crazy. You know, I don’t have any set plans right now. I know I want to be a teacher some day. I’m really passionate about teaching and I loved my experience with student teaching. … But I don’t know if I’m ready to be done running yet. That’s kind of what I’m thinking for next year, so I think if I were to get a teaching job right now, and try to also continue training, I wouldn’t be able to do both 100 percent and I don’t want to do that.”
BI: What has your distance coach Andrew Carlson said to you about it? He ran professionally.
MVB: “He’s been an amazing coach and an awesome resource and a great person to talk to about running and just about future plans so he’s been great. Honestly, he told me, ‘If you’re worried about people questioning whether you should continue running after college, don’t worry about it because people will question it. But do it because you love it and that’s what you want to do.’ He said, ‘One hundred percent do it if that’s what you want to do.’ He’s super supportive and great to talk to about it.”
BI: Coming into college, did you think you would win as many Summit League Indoor Championships as you did?
MVB: “Honestly, I don’t think about the numbers. I just love racing; I love track and I love the Bison. Every year I’ve done multiple events, so coming into conference, I knew I wanted to do the 3K, the mile, and the 5K because it’s fun for me to just go out and do my best in all my events. Conference isn’t the time to go out and try and run a fast time. It’s more about going out there and getting points for your team and I want to do the best that I can.”
BI: You won the Summit League Championship in the steeplechase during your sophomore year, but you haven’t won since. What’s it going to take to get back on top of the podium?
MVB: “Last year, I was really excited about how things were going. Then, of course, with Daryl’s situation, running just became – well my priorities completely changed, and so I had to take some time off from running. That honestly was huge for me this year because I had to kick my butt to get back into shape all fall, because I was planning a wedding, I was back and forth with Mayo (Clinic) for months. That just totally changed everything. I had my meeting with Andrew before every season to evaluate how things went last season and (to) make goals for the next season, which is super helpful. But looking back, it was kind of like, ‘Okay, I had to really come quite a ways from coming in in the worse shape that I’ve been in in a really long time to get back to where I wanted to be.’ So I was just happy I was able to still run well and PR (personal record) for the team this year. I think it set me up really well to have the best outdoor season I’ve had. I definitely feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in and I’m ready for more.”