By Brandon OConnorJanuary 14, 2020
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Partway up the rope that marks the end of the ground-phase of the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, Class of 2021 Cadet Sophia Suri began to feel lightheaded.
She had slipped on an early apparatus during her run of the course and for the next few stages she felt "spooked," but kept going. Then, halfway up the rope the dizzy spell hit, so she climbed down and once her feet hit the ground she fainted.
Completing the course in a passing time is a graduation requirement at the U.S. Military Academy and that is difficult to do when you are out cold on the floor before the finish line, so, like it or not, Suri was going to have to return and run the course again.
"I went into it again a month later thinking, I can't really do any worse than that because I didn't finish it," Suri said. "I was like, 'I've got this like. I just need to finish it.'"
Finish it she did, racing her way through the course in a time fast enough to earn a tab as a top IOCT finisher, which requires female cadets to finish the course in under three minutes and 35 seconds. After proving to herself that she could finish the course, Suri refused to be satisfied with just tabbing it.
She returned to the course in November determined to get an A-plus. Racing from the start line she made her way through the obstacles she had trained on, over the pommel horse, across the bars and eventually up the rope that had thwarted her before and finishing with sprints around the indoor track.
Then, her final time flashed on the board, showing she had run in the high 3:20s, when a 3:14 was required for an A-plus. The course had beaten her once before leaving her passed out at the bottom of the rope, but this time, with motivation from her dad in the back of her mind after she'd taken him along on one of her training runs, she refused to be beaten by the IOCT.
"(My dad) went through and ran it with me and he told me that he could beat my score," Suri said. "It kind of pissed me off, like you're a 50-year-old man, you're not going to beat my score. He was basically like, 'How long does it take you to run it?' I said, 'Three minutes, but it hurts. It's a painful three minutes.' He said, 'I can do anything for three minutes.'"
She took that mindset with her into Hayes Gymnasium where the test is held, and then standing at the finish line of the IOCT having not met her goal, she had a choice to make. Walkaway with her tab, but short of an A-plus and return during the spring semester. Or, she could walk downstairs, get back in line and run the course a second time. Three minutes, that is all it would take, and with her dad's message inspiring her she chose to run the course again on the same day.
"I was like, 'Well, I'm here. I'm capable. I'm running it right now,'" Suri said. "I just got back in line. At the start of the test, I just told myself I'm not going to waste my time. I'm going to get an A-plus right now and I'm never going to run it again."
She stood again at the starting line and took off on the course through the tire swing, across the balance beam and up the wall. Racing through the sprints at the top, the clock flashed three minutes as she started her final lap, Suri said, and at that point she knew she was going to hit her mark.
Her official time from the Department of Physical Education for that final run was three minutes and 14 seconds, the exact time need for an A-plus. Reaching the time meant she never had to run the course again as she had the maximum grade she could obtain on the female cadet grading scale.
Since accomplishing her goal of an A-plus, the fact that it was only on the female scale has motivated her to maybe change her mind about never doing the course again. On the men's scale, her time is a C-minus, and after proving to herself that she can do the course, that just might not be good enough.
"My long-term goal if I decide to run it again next year, even though I don't have to, is I want to get a better grade on the guys' scale," Suri said. "This is one of the only tests now that is divided by gender."