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The Metallic Ribbons
A year ago, I never would have dreamed of winning all of the metallic ribbons
and trophies that adorn my wall from track. I had never seen a meet, run an official race, or been on a track team. I never knew there was such a thing. I only signed up because my friends did. In April the season began. The coach, Mrs. Willis, wanted to have an outdoor practice that day. The only problem was that it was snowing. We continued to practice indoors. Nobody really listened, and we mostly just goofed off. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
On the day of the first meet, I thought I was going to throw up. My knees were shaking, and my hands trembled with anticipation. The coach pushed me to the starters line. She then told me I was running the 100m and the 200m, because not many girls on the team were sprinters. I didn’t know I was one until that day. I froze. My friends literally had to coax me to the starters line, with much fighting back on my end. A skinny blonde man approached the line. He explained the order of the heats, how the race was run, where the finish line was, and a ton of other stuff. That was great and all, except that I didn’t hear a word of what he said, due to the fact that I was zoning out. Being the lucky kid that I am, I was in the first heat of the first race. I looked up to the stands and saw my teammates, their parents, and some of the high school runners and coaches.
“Runners to your marks!” “Set!” “Bang!” And we were off. I got so scared by the smoke gun that I jumped about three feet in the air. Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I lunged and tore forward. The 100m is a very short race, and a straight run. It seemed like that in no time in all, I crossed the line, and won. The next race was the 200m, half a lap around the track. Walking over to the bend, there was a huddle of girls from the opposing team. They looked so professional in their matching red-and-white uniforms. Looking down at my gray HRMS t-shirt, soffe shorts, and beat up Nike cross trainers; I felt stupid. Once again, I was in the first heat, because I won the 100m. Lucky me. None of my friends were in this race. It was double the length of my first race, and I doubted whether or not I would be able to do it.
The official set us up on the staggered lines, and told us where the finish line was. Once again, I took my stance, ready to pounce. This was only a little bit hard, because my knees were about to give out; my leg was having a mini seizure, and I thought I was having and asthma attack (even though I don’t have asthma). “Runners to your mark!” “Set!” “Bang!” Once again, I tore forward. I was looking around, confused. I started the farthest back. I didn’t know then that the lanes are all the same distance. Passing the bend, a few people along the fence cheered when I ran by, but I barely noticed them. I was in my own space, my mind focused on the task at hand. I do what I do: run. One foot in front of the other, one stride at a time, knowing that it’s me, in the flesh, on this track. I passed the first girl. Faster. I passed the second girl. Pump your arms harder. I pass the third girl. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. I pass the fourth girl. Only 50 meters to go. Everything in my mind is washing away. All that matters is this, right here and right now. All I can hear is the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the asphalt. I am neck and neck with the girl, with 25 meters to go. I clench my fists so hard it hurts. I take a longer stride. I correct my breathing. I won.
For the rest of the season, I would finish first or second in the 100m. I didn’t care though. That was only practice for the 200m. I really started to like track, and I didn’t mind the commitment, I just loved the competition. By the end of the season, I had gotten my 100m times down to a flat 14.5 seconds, and my 200m down to 30 seconds even. The 200m were no problem for me. I won every single race that season except for one. It was the second-to-last meet of the season against Lynn. I finished second with 31 seconds. She pulled a 29. I was dumbfounded. How could someone like me get beat by her? That week I made myself run 3 miles a day, to make up for that race. I was furious that I lost, even though it was no big deal. I was raging with fury inside. I remember her name, and what she looked like. Her name was Hulerie. I never thought I would see her again, but little did I know that I was wrong.
Once the season had ended, I began to miss running. Sure, I ran sprints at soccer, but it wasn’t the same. I loved coming out of nowhere, surprising the girl in the next lane, and then seeing the look on her face when she saw me cross the finish line first. One Sunday, my dad asked if my brother, sister and I wanted to go to an “open meet” in Lynn. I said yes, and within the hour, we were out the door. It was the nicest track I had ever seen. It was a reddish color, and it added a spring to your step, because it was rubber. My first event was the standing long jump, which I had never done before in my life. I did all right, and I placed fifth in my age group. The next event for me was the 100m. Again, I did all right, placing fifth again. The next event was the 200m, my all time favorite, and my chance to shine. The other girls intimidated me. They were all about 5’ 8”, black, and seemed to all be friends. They talked about school, which I pretended to be busy with calf stretches. It was so awkward, and I couldn’t wait for the race to start. I was in the first heat. I took my stance, and got into game mode.
When the gun went off, I quickly tore out of the starter’s blocks. Rounding the bend, I passed girl after girl. Pretty soon, I was neck in neck with the girl in lane 5, to the left of me. I could hear people cheering. I pushed and pushed, willing myself to go faster. Suddenly the gap between us got wider, and I was in the lead. I finally was crossing the finish line, coming in at first place. Winning your heat is not everything, though. The girl in the next heat could have a better time than me, so then she would be the winner. It took about 2 hours to find out the rankings, because they don’t tell you until the end of the meet. I was absolutely dying. I was so excited, because I found out that if I had really won this race, I would represent the district in my age group. At states, if I got a really good time, you have the potential to go to nationals, in Hershey Pennsylvania. The results were in and I won the race! A girl in the second heat came in second place, one tenth of a second after me. And guess who it was-Hulerie. I had beaten her!
About a month later was the Hershey State meet, in July. I was so nervous that day. I wanted to win more than anything I had ever wanted. I thought I would, and I could already imagine the huge trophy, my picture in the paper, and my name being spoken of all over town. Unfortunately, I was sick the day of the meet. I ran miserably. My legs were weak and rubbery, and my breathing was way off. I pulled a 14.5 in the 100m (that was an okay race for me), but then I was tired. I ran a 33 second 200m, my worst time ever. I was mortified and humiliated. I had qualified for states for the long jump, too, but I skipped it because I couldn’t show my face. My grandma, aunt, uncle, and whole family had come to see me run, and I screwed up. I placed sixth in the states for the 100m, and 9th in the states for the 200m. When I got home, I went to my room and cried for what seemed like hours. I felt like my dream had been taken away from me, stomped on, cut up, and torn away from me. After that, I didn’t run much for the rest of the summer. One night, my sister was going down with my dad to the DHS track. I was bored, all of my friends were on vacation, and there was nothing on TV, so I decided to go. To my surprise, there was a group of kids running with high schoolers as coaches. Every Tuesday night they had an open meet. I ran the first night, and felt great. I won the softball throw, the shot put, the long jump, the 100m, the 200m, and the 4x100m relay. I was on a roll. The track program went on for about a month. During the last two weeks, I improved drastically. I had gotten my 200m times down to 28 seconds even. That was my personal record, and when I double-checked it online, I had improved so much, that I could win states. The State record for girls was 29 seconds for 200m. Then I checked the National times (the North American Meet). A 28 second heat would make me 7th in North America. I was ecstatic! When the last night came, I won six awards. No one could even touch my records. I started to like shot put, too. I could throw a 25-footer. The high school coach started to talk to me, and he told me to find him when I got to high school, and he’d find me a spot on the team. I couldn’t wait for spring track.
Track has taught me a lot in the past year. Sacrifice, determination, passion, and vision are some of the life lessons I have learned in this short time. Track has taught me to work for what I want to accomplish, and no one can control that but me. I have experienced pain, want, patience, and perseverance. I have endured the arrogant remarks and sarcastic jabs because some people don’t understand that running is not a sport-it is life to me. Running is one of the things that makes me feel alive. Not many people can understand the emotion that comes from such a simple sport. In February, I start
running, sweating, and dieting to push my body to its breaking point. The season hasn't even begun yet. That is what it takes to get the fame, glory and respect that all athletes crave. That is what I wish for, yearn for, and dream of. Once improvement kicks in, reality comes along with it. You start to believe that you can. Crouched in the starter’s position, waiting for the gun to go off, I often wonder whether I will be a champion or a failure. Before I can even ponder the answer, the gun goes off with a deafening crack. My heart beats faster and faster. My muscles are aching, and my legs begin to feel numb. Running is my passion, and nothing can change that. Win, loss or tie; in the end I do it for one reason-the love of the sport.