Last Night’s County Meet

It’s county. Maybe that would be nothing special if this were any other county, but this is Hamilton county, home of the most competitive track runners in the entire state. My times would slide by in any other regional, but in my regional I need to shred some serious rubber to get to state.
Today was one of the most important meets of the season. It’s the end of the season, the crescendo. I felt a little nervous. Part of the reason I was nervous was because I did a terrible warm-up. Warming up in the infield was not allowed, but I warmed up there anyway for injury prevention reasons. I rushed through each exercise because I was so afraid of somebody telling me to stop. I needed to get all my exercises in before that happened. The other reason was that I started the meet with slight abdominal pain that increased as I ran accels. I was afraid that would hurt me down the stretch. I stretched and mentally prepared for my race. Some 200 prelim runners and I chatted before the race, setting my nerves at ease. I pray to God to just get me to finals. Then I was in the blocks.
I centered myself as I always do, by focusing on the wind. I mentally reiterate my objective and then empty my mind of thought. I focus only on the wind and the placement of my limbs.
The gun goes off, and I sprint the curve easily passing many of the runners, but I can see two catching up as the curve ends. My abs feel like they are ripping apart. My legs are so sore from the pathetic thing I called a warm-up that night. My heart is pounding. I NEED to get to finals.
I almost cry from relief when we hit the 150 meter mark, and the other two girls with me start to slow. The other girls are so far behind us that we literally coast across the finish line at a fast jog. I am so thankful that I got to throttle back that I almost cry. My mind is singing praises to God for his help.
When it comes around to the finals, I believe I’m ready. A guy offers to hold my blocks, and I’m touched by the gesture. My mind once again centers on the wind. “Don’t try and win it,” I tell myself, “Just focus on form”.
The gun goes off and I burst out of the blocks. I step on the line twice and quickly correct myself through a moment of panic. I see three runners passing me at the end of the curve. I force myself not to care. I force myself to focus on form. I’ve been doing that the last few times out. The real question is why haven’t I been doing this the entire time? I’m a senior for God’s sake. Normally I get too into the competition and stiffen up near the end, as I desperately try to pass the girl ahead and fail instead. This time I ignore place. I just focus on form
When I finally finish about a meter or two behind the the girl pack, I know I’ve gotten a great time, probably a season best. I’m ecstatic, electric. We wait for the timer. It’s a little bit longer than usual. The hand time for the winner, we’re told, is 24.9 s. I wasn’t far behind. We all wait with bated breath to hear the results.
” We don’t have the times, ” the official tells us. An indignant “WHAT?!” explodes from my mouth. The machine malfunctioned. He tells us we have to run it again at the end of the meet. My soul feels crushed. I start sobbing.
I stumble over to the turf and crash down. I’m crying and my lungs are leaving me rasping for air. My favorite coach comes over to talk with me. “You ran awful,” he tells me, I guess in an effort to cheer me up, “you got fourth. You’ll do better when you run it again.”
“Get up and cry it out,” he commands. I oblige, mostly because I’m not ready to stop crying, and I’m relieved he isn’t going to try and make me stop. I talk with a few track members, telling them I have to run it… Again.
I cry a little more. I stay a little mad. And then, when I feel better, I steel myself for my race. I get excited. I get competitive.
My teammate, Karen, who has been on the team with me all four years, and who has acted as coach, mom, and friend to me over the years, sees me and makes a beeline toward me. She wraps me in a hug and tells me she is so proud of me. We discuss the time. She hand timed me at 25.6. I say I’m pretty sure that was my fastest time. She tells me she’s sure it is. Then she tells me not to worry because the head coach isn’t going to make me run it again. I feel the weight of sudden disappointed. “Aw,” I start, “I can’t run it again.” Her eyes slide over me sceptically. “You want to run it again?”
I meet up with my head coach who tells me not to worry because I’m not running it again, but instead I still feel slightly disappointed. He says running it again would be dangerous, and they’re trying to prevent injury.
I’m mostly upset because this is a special weekend. This is the weekend of the Horizon League Championships, the weekend I find out what time I need to get a scholarship. This is an important scholarship. I am going to graduate school after undergrad, and this scholarship would severely help me cut down on debt and anxiety. I needed my time as a base point. I needed to know that I can rise to the challenge.
At least I know I worked hard, and that the athlete of the week baton is possibly coming my way because I have worked so hard this week, and I’m killing it.

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