One of the first coaches I got to meet when I first started at The Goshen News in 2018 was Tracy Walesa.
I actually met her husband, Charlie, first a few weeks prior. Charlie was a co-head girls golf coach for Goshen, and the first ever high school sporting event I covered was the Goshen Invitational that always kicks off a new girls golf season in northern Indiana.
A few weeks later, I met Tracy, who was coaching the Wawasee girls soccer team at the time. The Warriors ended up playing a 0-0 tie that afternoon with Westview — very riveting, I know.
I only ever interviewed Tracy formally three times. Unfortunately, the last two occurrences were to talk about her metastatic breast cancer (MBC) diagnosis.
Once was in June 2019 when she first had it. The other when it returned in February 2020.
Tracy beat the cancer twice. She wasn’t able to do so for a third time.
Tracy passed away early Sunday morning. She was only 32 years old.
I had heard Saturday evening that she didn’t have much time to live. The news was a gut punch to me.
Because while, yes, I only ever formally interviewed Tracy three times, I’ve had countless conversations with her and Charlie during my near-four years now at TGN.
One of the best parts of my job is the conversations I get to have with people. Yes, there are times when those are on the record, of course, but the off the record ones are just as important.
Many of those chats came with the Walesa’s. Seeing them at track meets, there tends to be some down time between events, especially the longer distance running races. That allows you to catch up with people and talk about their lives, which are conversations I’ve always valued.
And let me tell you, Tracy Walesa lived her life.
Tracy never let the cancer in her body stop her from what she wanted to do. Her and Charlie still went on vacations together, most recently to Costa Rica this past April.
She could be seen at Goshen High School track events, volunteering her time to make sure the meet ran smoothly. She always tended to be near the start/finish line, making sure everyone scheduled to run in that particular race was ready to go. She was doing this even as recently as the boys regional in late May, powering through the pain her body was going through because of the cancer.
She never stopped teaching at Goshen, either, which is a true testament to her courage.
You couldn’t tell Tracy was sick by looking at her. She always had a smile on her face, happy to be helping out student-athletes that she cared for. She still had most of her hair as well in the spring, having only lost it during chemotherapy treatments in 2019 and 2020.
Tracy lived longer than most do with the type of breast cancer she was diagnosed with. The average life expectancy after diagnosis of MBC is 18-24 months. Tracy lasted more than three years. The cancer had spread to her bones, uterus, and the lining of the lungs by this past September, which led to even more complications.
The outpouring of tributes to Tracy on social media Sunday is all you need to know about what impact she made in her short, eventful life. Former Goshen athlete Kyrie Porter, who played basketball while Walesa was an assistant coach at GHS, tweeted, “One of my favorite people during my high school years & one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. Forever grateful for the opportunity I had to play for her & learn from her.”
Former Concord soccer player and current assistant athletic director at the school, Madison Miller, tweeted, “Tracy was the ‘Mia Hamm’ of Concord Soccer while growing up. I wore #15 for a few years because that was her number. I was determined to be & play just like her. I’m thankful to have been able to know her, learn from her, & develop a friendship through the sport we love.”
Wawasee girls track assistant coach Scot McDowell, who worked with Tracy when she was the head coach of the program in 2019, tweeted, “She was the toughest kid I know. She was there [for] everyone even when she was down. I feel so blessed to be able to get to see her smile and get a hug [one) last time. I know you are in a better place and feeling no pain anymore!! Love you kid!!”
Tracy was loved by everyone who knew her, and the courage she showed in fighting this brutal disease was admirable in every sense of the word.
Tracy lived her life until the very end, and that’s how I’ll always remember her.