The moment of truth was upon me. The official times, this includes whom qualified for finals, for the 400m relay had been posted. My eyes scanned the page for the bold letters that spell ANDERSON. As I ran my finger across the page to where the times were posted, my ears began to shut out all outside noises, leaving me alone with the thump of my heart and the inhale and exhale of my lungs. Both began to increase in speed as my eyes narrowed in on the time.
My sophomore year had begun and I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to do track this year. Last year I played football in the fall and soccer in the spring. Not really enjoying it, the decision was made to play “real football” (soccer) in the fall, leaving the spring sports season open. My friend kept telling me how fun track was, so I decided to give it a try.
As the first meet neared, things were going well. I made it onto the 4×100 team making me the third fastest kid on the team. The other members of the relay were Jason Schmidt, Jeremy Willard and Rodney Schmidt. Jason and Jeremy were both the top dogs and Rodney and I were second from the bottom of the barrel.
The 400 relay was my best event. We placed in every meet and even took home some medals as the season progressed. As the track year rounded for the home stretch, we had only three more meets to compete in: the Tiger Invitational, regionals, and state.
As the Tiger rolled around, there arose a question of whether or not to keep the team together or break it up and give the two seniors a chance to compete in other individual events at regionals. I actually didn’t know about this possibility until about five minutes before the race began on Saturday. We were all huddled together preparing for the start. Jeremy came up to Rodney and me and told us that if we didn’t do well the team might be dropped. Kicking our motivational drive into high, the four of us focused on only one thing: running the time we all knew we could. Getting into the blocks I felt more ready than ever. At the sound of the gun, I shot out of the blocks. I sprinted around the track, concentrating on making a great hand-off. Everything went smooth and my excitement began to build as I watched Rodney sprint away from me. The other two hand-offs went great and our anchorman, Jeremy Willard, crossed the line in a great position. I remember how light headed I felt as I ran over to the finish line to get our unofficial time from Jeremy. It was by far our best of the year.
Now all that was left was to wait for the sheet of paper with our acu-track times (very accurate times, which are acquired by a laser sight and a camera). I, quite to the contrary of most meets, was not the first person to seek out our much more accurate time. This day, I found myself listening to the excited talk of my good friend Rodney Schmidt, telling me that we had posted a time of 45.19! I ran to tell people, but it seemed like everyone else knew before me. Feeling sure that we had just broken a school record, I ran up to coach just to make sure.
“Hey, coach what’s the school record for the 4×100?” I remember asking.
“I do believe it is 45.19, if I’m not mistaken,” He replied.
I could feel my heart begin to race and my eyes widened with excitement. I turned to Rodney only to see an expression that probably looked just like mine on his face.
With a great run under our belts we ready for the next meet of the year: the highly anticipated 2A/3A/4A Regionals. For the first time all year, we would be competing against people from only 3A. Although the 2A and 4A regionals are held in the same place, our times are only compared to other 3A competitors.
Regionals is a two-day meet that starts on Friday and ends on Saturday. Only the preliminaries for the shorter, individual events take place on the first day. With nothing much to lose, I ran well and made it to finals in the 100m and 200m dash. With Friday over, it was time to get down to business. All times on Saturday were final and would decide which contenders would make it to the big show.
It was Saturday, and now time for our 4×100 team to take the track. I had run the 100m dash early that day and missed placing for state by one hundredth of a second. Putting that behind me, I ran well in the 4×100. Although we didn’t run a great time, it was still fast enough to watch Jeremy Willard cross the finish line in first. To close out my day, I placed fifth in the 200m, one place shy of state.
Heading to Pueblo for state, I had two things to focus on: placing in the 400m relay and having some fun. Our first day in Pueblo was fun, but little did I know how fun our trip would become. Friday, after our team warm-up and practicing hand-offs, there was nothing left to do, but sit at camp and anxiously cheer on my other teammates. It was nearly impossible to keep my mind off the upcoming event; and I’m sure, I became very annoying, pestering people at camp for the time. Then, one day, that time came and we finally began our warm-up for the 400m relay.
We gathered up our equipment and took the long walk down the huge concrete stairs. Upon reaching the ground level we placed our shoes under a shaded area reserved for competitors. We hopped down from the concrete wall that held the ground in place and began a slow jog. We jogged away from the stadium, down near the graffiti covered canal. As we passed by we made remarks on the odd things painted there, some of them perverted and others trying to get people to save the whales. It seemed kind of odd, two seniors and two sophomores running together now as a team. We were a team; each of us knew it and just how much we depended on each other. Completing our jog, we headed back up to the stadium and began our stretches.
After our warm-up was complete we moved over to the starting area. They sent runners two, three, and four out onto the track, where they anxiously awaited the loud blast of the starting gun. My nerves began to build and my heart began to race. I was now alone with six complete strangers; yet in a weird way, I felt that we were connected.
The man standing in front of us pointed down the track and in an ironically calm voice said, “Go.” We headed down the track doing our senseless form running, all knowing that at this point it wouldn’t really help. The starter called us to our blocks. My stomach began to twist and turn and I wondered if I would be able to hold what little food I had eaten that day off the track. “Set!” echoed over loud speakers and the runners rose to their positions. At that moment, my nerves broke, and my heal rose out of the blocks. I had false started! The first time ever and it was at state. I expected to hear the horrible double bang of the starting gun, but it never came. The starter had missed my first and only false start that year. My mind was now slightly off the race, and my reaction to the gun was probably half a second slower than usual. With all my nerves all ready gone, I actually was able to run smooth. All of our hand-offs were good and we crossed the finish line in, what appeared to be, second, which would mean that we were running in the finals tomorrow. After waiting for a while, I headed over to the other side of the stadium where the times are posted.
I looked over the jumble of papers posted on the board to find the sheet that was labeled “Boys 400m Relay.” Finding the name Anderson, I scanned over the official times. On the sheet of paper was a 45.05; our fastest time of the year, and next to that was a small lower case “q.” The realization of what the little ink stains on the paper meant hit me, and all the anxiety of the day was gone in one huge sigh of relief, only to be replaced by the nervous anticipation of tomorrow.
On Saturday, we ran a slightly disappointing time of 45.40, which was fast enough for seventh. Although seventh was a small let down, the year as a whole was a great accomplishment. It was my first year of high school track and I had earned a school record and a seventh at state. I ran track last year, as well, and went to state in four events, placing seventh in the 4x400m and ninth behind eight seniors in the 400m dash. We also had a good 4×100 team, with all our members returning next year. With senior track on the horizon, I am more motivated than ever, foaming at the mouth for a state championship. I know this will be my year.