Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
“Courage and determination. I used to think I knew what those words meant. Then I saw my grandfather, Hunter Temple, embrace and overcome some of the biggest challenges that life can throw at a man.
“I always knew my grandfather, who we all call Hunter, as someone who is extremely supportive, who has a hilariously young soul, and is an extreme athlete. The extreme athlete part might surprise you considering he is 83 years old. However, I assure you, what he does is nothing short of remarkable.
“When he was in his 50s, Hunter looked through a triathlon magazine and discovered the most physically and mentally taxing test humanly possible. He had to do it. His first race was in Monterey, California. He used a borrowed wetsuit and a bike that was so old he had to carry it uphill. This adventure could have been a one-time thing. He could have said he’d done it, say he was thankful for the experience, and walk away. That’s not Hunter, however. He was hungry for more. He knew the pinnacle of triathlon competition was the annual Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. It was his goal to finish that race.
“For those who don’t know, an Ironman distance triathlon is 140.6 total miles, including a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a full marathon run. In October of 1990 when he was 56 years old, he completed the Kona Ironman for the first time. This was a massive achievement, but again, somehow, he wasn’t satisfied. He returned to Kona in 2006, 2010, and 2013 to compete three more times.
“This was often a struggle, however. In January 2008, Hunter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had a tumor that had attached itself to nerves and blood vessels and couldn’t be removed surgically. That year, he lost over 40 pounds and spent months on a feeding tube. We almost lost him. It took immense amounts of strength as well as support from my wonderful grandmother, to get him through that low point in his life.
“At age 76, almost exactly two years after his surgery, Hunter qualified to go to the Kona Ironman World Championships once again. Unfortunately, extremely windy conditions caused him to crash his bike and fracture his hip. Even so, he finished the remaining 20 miles of the bike ride. The medical staff had to physically pull Hunter out of the race.
“Still, he knew he had to return. In 2013, he was 79. Due to various hip and knee surgeries, he could only walk during the run portion of the race. Because of this, he failed to finish in the required time. He said that he didn’t care and insisted the Ironman corporation let him finish the race anyway. However, they would not be persuaded.
“This last summer, I was lucky enough to travel with Hunter, now 83, to Penticton, British Columbia, and witness one of his races first-hand. During this trip, I not only saw what true courage and determination look like, but I learned more about mental fortitude than I ever had before. I am so incredibly thankful to have been able to walk with him across the finish line at that race.
“The lessons my grandfather taught me will stick with me forever. I couldn’t be more proud to call him my grandpa. Hunter, I know that you have some unfinished business in Kona, so I am going to do everything in my power to finish that race for you at some point in my life. After all, your rookie year was when you were 56, so I have time.