The acknowledgement is usually quick and might be nothing more than a glance.
But, oh, how important it is.
Desert Vista senior track athletes Sydnee Freeman and Kadie McNamara have been fueled in their careers by the plight of their mothers.
So anytime they can see, hear or receive a text (yes, coaches, moms are texting their daughters before they compete) from their moms it brings a since of calm.
"I never look at her while I am competing, but before and after there is always something," McNamara said. "She does everything she can to be there and I know it isn't always easy."
They have watched their moms beat cancer several times (Freeman) and get past the challenges of raising their children as a single mother (McNamara) enough to learn that a strong, resilient woman can be an amazing role model.
Freeman's mother, Levore, is on her way to overcoming the physical and mental toll of breast cancer for the third time.
The first diagnosis came when the family was still in New York and Freeman was just 5. She thought it was odd that her mom was losing her hair, but had no concept of what it meant.
Then it returned again two years ago and Freeman saw the toll treatment took on her mother so when it returned at the end of 2010 it really broke her down.
"I took it really hard and cried," Freeman said. "I didn't know people could get it that many times. She is getting treatment and it is going away.
"She is the strongest woman I have ever met. She just keeps pushing through."
Freeman has tried to bring a similar approach to her running career. She has been slowed by hamstring tightness - she has had them scraped a few times - and has only ran in two meets so far.
Her top event is the 400-meter dash after finishing fourth in the state last season when she clocked a time of 57.73 seconds. Her times heading into today's Chandler Rotary Invitational, one of the state's best events, haven't been impressive so far (59s) so frustration has started to settle in.
"Getting the hamstrings scraped was no fun at all," said Freeman, who has received attention from Arizona, Arizona State and San Diego State universities. "I want to do well, win state and have more colleges recognize me, but I haven't been able to yet. I think I can get close to my PR this weekend."
While the frustration is mounting for Freeman, she uses her mom's situation as a motivator.
"Every time I get tired it is like ‘Let's do this for my mom,'" she said. "She is so strong and I don't want her worrying about me."
McNamara, on the other hand, has been performing better than ever, partially because of the lessons she has learned from watching her mom, Deanna Lincoln, over the years.
She has always performed well in practice, but has had trouble transferring it to meets.
"I was expected to place high at state and I didn't," she said. "I'd tense up, not hit my marks and then not even come close to my (distances) I'd get in practice."
McNamara finished 12th at state in discus with a distance of 34 feet, 11.25 inches and 10th in the discus at 110-11.
This season has gone much smoother in meets, including a PR in the shot put at 37-7, after realizing something her mom has shown her all along.
"You don't need to rely on others," McNamara said. "You have the power inside you to do what you need to do and dig deep."
Lincoln has done that since getting divorced about nine years ago when McNamara was in the third grade and her eighth-grade sister, Brigitte, was a toddler.
"She is such an inspiration, proving she can do it by herself," McNamara said. "She does whatever it takes to make sure we have what we need and supports us. We have always been super close and that's never going to change."
It has helped give McNamara, who has heard from Ohio State and Air Force, the confidence to be a strong, independent athlete on the brink of something special.
"She always finds a way to make my meets," McNamara said. "Knowing she is there and some of the things she has sacrificed drives me to be that much better."
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