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State of joy
The bus bumped along the gravel and dirt of the parking lot in New Britain. Cheering was heard from the Rock Cats game going on across the street, but I was more interested in the bustling of teams entering the Track of Willowbrook Park.
We found a place to park in the sea of yellow buses and as our team emerged I felt the nerves kicking in. We sat in our usual spot, small chunks of rock covering the ground where we settled ourselves for a long day. Underneath the huge concrete bleachers, sheltered from the suns heat, we could see our competition walking back and forth along the asphalt paved path leading around the track. A table was set up around the corner for the throwers to weigh in their implements, a line had formed and as I joined the end of it I realized these were the girls I would be competing with.
Over the loud speaker I heard an announcement for girl’s discus throwers to head over to the discus circle. The voice was that of a man, probably in his 50’s, sounding excited for the long day of announcing ahead of him. I sat down kicking off my flip-flops and pulling my socks on. Then I fastened the velcro strap of my sneakers, and with my red discus in hand I headed to the circle.
The sun beat down on my thick black throwing shirt as I rounded the corner and crossed the track, heading towards the group of twelve throwers. We were told we had ten minutes of warm-ups before the competition started. Standing around and waiting for our turn we each took a few throws while scoping out the competition. Those ten minutes flew by and soon enough they had announced the order of throws, since I was seeded fourth I was throwing fourth to last. The first couple throws were between 70 and 80 feet, not much competition. It was the girl who threw right before me that I was worried about, she had thrown 100 feet, and my personal best was 97’7.
Nerves and all, I headed into the circle after the judge called my name. Just standing there during a state meet was a huge accomplishment. I took a deep breath, focused on a tie in the net in front of me, and warmed up my arm. Back and forth it swung three times before I started my spin. Catching my focal’s, 3 o’clock and then 9 o’clock I spun my way to the front of the circle and released a nice high throw. I froze as I watched it glide through the air and land in the grass quite a ways out. I heard the thud and the judge say, “MARK!” and I exited out the back of the circle, walking out into the field to grab my disk.
There was a guy holding a tape measure, ready to tell me my fate. I thought I heard him say 105, but that seemed too surreal to believe. I turned and stared with amazement. No. He did not just say that, I must have heard him wrong. I was shaking so wildly, trying to analyze what just happened.
“Awesome throw! Really that was amazing.” A girl from another school, one who had thrown 78 feet, came up to me and congratulated me.
I looked up in confusion, was it really that good?
“Thanks, did you happen to hear how far it was?” I replied trying to sound cool and collected.
“Um, yea I’m pretty sure he said 105… I think you’re in second.” The girl explained as if it was no big deal.
I said thanks and told her she did well too, but I couldn’t hide the smile on my face. I still wasn’t entirely sure if that was my actual throw but the next time I was up I made sure to listen so I would know how far it went. I did the same routine, entered the circle, took a deep breathe, warmed up my arm and let it rip. It flew through the sky and I listened for the thud and the guy to yell mark, then I exited the back, only this time I stood close enough to hear the distance.
“101’3!” the judge yelled the number and I turned around running for my disk, grinning from ear to ear. My coaches weren’t here to see this, but my mom and aunt were in the stands. I motioned the numbers with my fingers and didn’t hold back my excitement as they jumped up and down. The girl who had congratulated me was wrong, I wasn’t second going into finals, I was first.
So I took a quick break and ran over to tell my family the good news. My sister had mentioned she saw my Coach which is why I sent her to get him as I exploded with excitement on the other side of the fence.
The minutes ticked by and the wait was killing me, I needed to tell him how I did. I ran under the bleachers, into the cool of the shade. I saw him way down at the other end and sprinted towards him.
“COACH WOODS!” I yelled. ‘I just through 105 feet!” I blurted out.
His reaction was priceless, his face lit up and he looked at me, “No s***.” He managed to say with a straight face, before his excitement began to show.
We walked back towards where I would be throwing finals. Me rambling about how awesome this was, and giving him every little detail, him listening intently, looking like he was going to stand up and cheer because he was as happy about it as I was. He was too preoccupied listening to my story, that when I finally stopped talking and let it all sink in he discovered I had accomplished something else.
“Amanda, do you remember what the school record is?” Coach Woods tried to ask me nonchalantly.
“Um, I think you said it was like 113 or something…” I replied confused.
My mom was standing next to us, quietly listening after already talking it up with Coach. I didn’t think much of his question and I was trying to figure out what he was getting at when he told me.
“I need to call Coach King, I think the record is either 103 or 106. Amanda, you might have just broken the school record.” As he spoke those words I stared at him blankly, my mind trying to decide whether this was actually happening.
The phone rang and rang until he finally answered. They talked for a few minutes. I heard one side of the conversation but one sentence stuck out in my head, making me bubble with newfound excitement. He had said, “Coach King, we have a new school record holder.” Then he hung up and said, “Now wait. Coach King will be here in 2 seconds.” We both just smiled and then they called finals and I had to go and do my last three throws.
I saw Coach King standing behind the fence before I threw and I knew he was freaking out. I got through my three throws, not as good as my first but that didn’t matter because I had thrown that 105 in the first round. I ran over to the fence and there they were, My Aunt, My Mom, Coach King, Coach Woods and Mr. Lou. They were all looking at me, expectantly, waiting to hear how I did. I had on my best poker face, but as soon as I said, “I won”, I broke into a huge smile and my coaches looked at me in awe.
I told them how far I threw, explained I had gotten the school record. The whole time my stomach was stirring and I was so happy I couldn’t keep my feet on the ground. I bounced up and down and couldn’t wipe that smile off my face.
Of course my mom had her camera and was taking pictures, trying to capture the eventful moment. Coach King was the first to come around the fence, he gave me knuckles and then impulsively pulled me into a hug. Ruffling my hair after and saying his congratulations. Then Mr. Lou, over the fence embraced me and told me how he was so proud of me. My mom was on the verge of tears and my Aunt was texting everyone she knew to let them know. I was basking in the moment when I looked over at Coach Woods. He was the coach who worked with me every day and I was the first State Champion he ever coached, so he was even more excited than the rest. I looked at him bright eyed and gleaming, then he came over and gave me a hug and a high five saying how amazing this was and how his status on Facebook was going to be how I was his first State Champion.
We walked over to Mitchell who was throwing shot, checking to see how he was doing. But before we could find out Coach Woods told him what I did, and Mitchell broke into a huge grin and shouted, “DAMN,” then he gave me a high five and congratulated me.
None of my other teammates knew how good I had done so as I walked back alone, my coaches watching Mitchell, I ran into a javelin thrower on my team who immediately asked me how I did.
“I won!” I exclaimed, my smile hadn’t left my face but now it had grown even bigger.
She started screaming and jumping up and down, and with her javelin in hand gave me a huge hug. When we pulled apart she asked how far I threw.
My voice was shaking but I managed to say, “I threw 105… I broke the school record.”
Then she was screaming and jumping all over again, it was really a site to see. I got the same reaction from Sarah who hadn’t come to compete but to watch. I saw her packing her bags and she looked up at me.
I coolly said, “So did you hear?”
“No, what?” she responded, not expecting me to say what I did.
“I won and broke the school record.” I exploded and she jumped off the ground and held me, jumping up and down.
After the whole team heard the news and congratulated me I was on cloud nine, I texted everyone I knew telling them the news. I still couldn’t sit still, my feet would not stay on the ground and I was bouncing up and down.
I got home and went right to sleep, or tried to. But I kept reflecting on the events of the meet, which was keeping me from getting any shut eye. The next day in school I got congratulated and was told to see my coaches during 20 minute break.
When the bell rang I practically ran to my locker, grabbed Sarah and walked giddily to the coaches’ office, not knowing what to expect.
I sat down and looked at Coach King, who simply said, “What are you doing here?”
“Um, you told me to come here.” I explained with a smile, knowing that he knew exactly why I was here.
Looking around I saw Coach King, Mr. Purdy and Mr. Pitman, but Coach Woods was nowhere to be found. We waited for him to come, Mr. Purdy smiling and telling me great job, Mr. Pitman agreeing with him. Soon enough he couldn’t wait anymore, Coach King walked over to the fridge and pulled out a cake. I was speechless.
Just then Coach Woods walked in looking proud of the fact that they had found a cake to get me on such short notice.
I was so happy, and felt so honored that I had to hold back tears. Tears of joy of course, but tears nonetheless. They explained how right after the meet they drove around trying to find an open bakery, getting lucky at a stop and shop. They apologized because it didn’t say anything on it, but that didn’t matter to me. I was still so overwhelmed, laughing and grinning like a maniac.
I walked into that meet with worry and nerves, I left it with a sense of pride and a gold medal. I walked towards their office that 20 minute break not knowing what to expect, and I left feeling even better than I had when I threw that discus 105 feet.