ST. CHARLES — The sun shines bright at Lindenwood University as a coach and an athlete prepare for a short training session.
“Do you want coach in the shot,” junior captain Ashley Shoemake asks in an attempt to put her coach, Nadia Alexander-Pompey, on the spot.
This friendly banter was not uncommon in their relationship. Shoemake, a thrower and captain on the Lindenwood Track & Field team, often expressed how big of a relief it was to “finally get a throws coach.”
Their positive relationship, however, was not limited to the occasional laugh or friendly joke. There bond was strong through the best and worst of times.
“I remember the day like it was yesterday,” Alexander-Pompey explained. “She just started to tell me. She said, ‘Coach, I have cancer.”
Shoemake was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Two tumors were discovered via ultrasound.
Alexander-Pompey walked roughly ten laps around the track the day she was given the news, listening to Shoemake express the entire spectrum of emotion.
“I maybe said like three words,” Alexander-Pompey said. “I’ve been told I have an amazing pokerface, but I was freaking out inside.”
The conversation covered a wide range of topics, but the decision was clear:
Shoemake wanted to continue training and competing.
“I think [competing] is what keeps me going. It keeps my mind busy,” Shoemake said. “I’m not going to stop or put a halt to what I want to do. I’ve got too many goals right now.”
The decision was a good one, competing in 11 total events, breaking two personal records, earning two bronze medals, and winning one gold during her junior season.
“It was her first division one championship [medal],” Alexander-Pompey said. “I told her, point blank, you are the champion.”
Shoemake enjoyed a handful of success only outmatched by the triumphs off the field.
“I am five months post-radiation.” Shoemake said with a smile. “For that, I pretty much feel like i can overcome anything if I really put my mind to it.”
Shoemake looks forward to competing for the Lions in her senior season, with hopes of achieving her goal of throwing 60 meters in competition.