Casey recently wrote about how miserable her life was while she was in high school, and my cousin left a comment on the post that she loved high school and that it was probably because she participated in an objective sport. That comment from my cousin brought back a memory I’ve been trying to forget for the past fifteen years. No matter how much time passes, I will never forget that moment and I will always wonder, what if.
My cousin, who attended a different high school located a few hundred miles from my own, was a track star in the state of Utah. She ran the hurdles and she ran them fast. She eventually ran them for BYU. Anyway, I threw the discus at my high school. I didn’t grow up thinking, huh, I really want to be a discus thrower. Nope, when I was a junior in high school I showed up to one of the last track meets of the season to goof around with some friends who were on the track team. While I was there I decided to sign up and throw the black round thing my friends’ called a discus. Thirty minutes later I was announced as the winner of the discus event. That was the start to my short-lived discus career.
Because I didn’t do any other events, it left me a lot of time during track meets to goof off during the random events. Events I didn’t practice and wasn’t trained for. I can still recall my football coach’s face as he ran over to me after I finished a 100 meter relay. He had a look of shock and regret on his face. There I was, a former defensive tackle on his football team, winning a 100 meter sprint by a good 10 meters over the team’s starting cornerback. I also randomly signed up at meets to do the pole vault, high jump, medley relay, and the shot put. As the year progressed my coach decided he wanted someone to compete in the decathlon at Utah’s biggest track meet—a meet that involved pretty much every high school in the state. After tryouts, I was chosen as that lucky person.
I began practicing for all the events, except the distance race. The only practice I had for the distance race was in gym class when the football coach would tell us to run around the track until he called the last lap. I had developed the practice of running with the group until the last lap was called and then I’d sprint the full last lap. I figured I’d just do the same thing at the decathlon.
The distance race, a full 1500 meters which seems awfully short now, was the last event of the decathlon. I lined up in the back of the pack and waited for the gun to sound. The stands were full of people and the track was surrounded by kids from the various high schools. Thousands of people were watching my race.
When the gun sounded I shot out towards the front and then quietly faded towards the back of the pack. I stayed at the back of the pack through the first lap and the second lap. As I ran around the track my school cheered me on. I could also hear my cousin cheering me on from where her school had set up camp next to the track.
As I entered my last lap I decided to make my move and I picked up my pace into a full sprint. I sprinted as fast as I could around the first corner of the track and into the first straight away. I started to hear a school off to my right cheering and shouting my school’s name. Students from my school’s most hated rival were cheering me on. Then kids from my school started shouting my name and then I started to round the third corner. I saw a group of kids start shouting my name too and I realized it was my cousin’s school. She had gathered her friends to cheer me on.
All of the shouting got my adrenaline shooting through the roof. I sprinted even faster and I was passing people as if they had no idea a race was even happening. By the time I hit the final straight away I had passed everyone who was running that event. I could hear people in the grandstand cheering for me as I sprinted.
I shot across the finish line in great relief because I had just used up all of my energy sprinting for 400 meters. I came to a quick walk and then I stopped.
I felt it more than anything. I felt and sensed someone run past me. Then another. Then another. Then several. I looked up and wondered what these idiots were doing. The race was over. I had won. Then it hit me. I started my sprint one whole lap too early. I was completely out of energy and there was no way I was going to be able to do anything to fix what I had done.
I slowly slogged my way around the track using every bit of extra energy I had to tuck my head down into my tank top in the hopes that the people who had just cheered me on wouldn’t realize it was me. I ended up finishing dead last.
I haven’t spent much time thinking about embarrassing moments in high school, but that moment is certainly in my top 5 and I’ll never live it down. I’ll always be that kid who thought the race was over in someone’s household.
Photo Credit: Flickr
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