To Run and Not Be Weary


In a small town in the Big Sky State of Montana, young LDS athletes are making a big impression.

Only 15 students at Shelby High School are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But this handful of students stands out in a big way in their school and in the community of Shelby, Montana. In fact, almost half of the athletes from Shelby High School who qualified for last year’s state championships in track and field were members of the Church.

What’s even better, they know where their strength comes from.

“The Word of Wisdom helps me in my athletics by keeping my body healthy and clean,” says Cori Thacker, a Laurel who is a sophomore standout in softball, basketball, and volleyball. “It also helps me say no to peer pressure in high school, and by doing that, I set an example for others. My friends look up to me for standing up for what I believe and doing the right thing.”

Senior Daniel Bridge, a priest in the Shelby Branch, was the Montana state champion in cross-country and also qualified to go to state in four track-and-field events.

Blake Thacker also qualified for state in four events as a sophomore and took second place in the 200-meter run. Because he keeps the Word of Wisdom, Blake feels confident that the Lord will keep His promises and help him perform his best. “If I am sore or if I am nervous for a race, I say a little prayer. The Word of Wisdom also helps me in my personal life because people always seem to look up to me to do the right thing,” says Blake. “My friends respect me for who I am and what I do.” Where could you find better examples of the Lord’s promise in the Word of Wisdom? “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; … And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:18, 20).

Walking a Higher Road

This trend of outstanding LDS athletes coming from the Shelby Branch has been going on for several years now. A few years back, four young men from the branch were members of the mile relay team that held the best time going into the state finals. Today all four of these young men are serving full-time missions for the Church.

“Seminary helps me set an example to my friends because they find it impressive that I get up early to go to seminary before school,” says Amanda Stewart. She competes in basketball, volleyball, and track. “Keeping the Word of Wisdom helps me so much in my athletics. I don’t get worn out because there are never unwelcome chemicals in my system.” And her friends have noticed. “I’m very fortunate to have great friends who respect my choices. In fact, they help me stick to my standards.”

As the hymn “True to the Faith” proclaims, “Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right? … No!” (Hymns, no. 254). Even though the number of LDS youth in Shelby is relatively small, the lasting impression they have on their friends and schoolmates is big.

“People ask me all the time why I get up so early just to read scriptures,” says Lance Flesch, a priest who wrestles, plays football, and runs track. He lets them know that being a member of the Church is a privilege with lots of benefits. Good physical health and a clear mind are just two of them. Lance says that going to seminary and holding fast to gospel standards “helps remind me to be in the world but not of the world. Having the Spirit helps me to set an example. I constantly have a companion encouraging me to walk the higher road.”

[photos] Photography by Dan O. Lybert and Michael E. Bashor

[photos] Youth from the Shelby Branch in Montana say that living the Word of Wisdom gives them an athletic edge. They represent their high school—and their religious beliefs—well. Left: Amanda Stewart runs the 800-meter. Far left (top to bottom): Daniel Bridge, races in cross-country competition; Brent Thacker runs the 300-meter hurdles; Cori Thacker pitches for the softball team.

[photos] Right: Shane Brown crosses the finish line to win the mile relay. Below: Youth of the Shelby Branch gather in front of their meetinghouse. Far right (top to bottom): Brooke Flesch runs relay; Brice Stewart makes his approach for the long jump; Amanda Stewart hurls the javelin; Blake Thacker wins the 200-meter.