Thecountdown had begun and there were just a few minutes left until showtime. Iperformed some last-minute stretches before stepping up to the faded chalk linein anticipation. I lifted my head and glared down the first straight-away.
Bang! A cloud of smoke coughed from the gun and I soared from thestarting line. This was the moment when my exhausting training would pay off. Iwas finally competing in a cross-country meet.
During cross country, Ilearned that dedication is one of the most important skills possible. During theseason, our team had weekly races averaging three miles. Each day my team trainedto increase our speed, strength and endurance. All the runners had to beextremely dedicated. I had to wake up at five in the morning for practice whilethe moon was still overhead. I never missed a practice where we would all pushourselves to our limits. As a team, we ran six days a week, the most allowed byour school. A runner couldn't survive the harshness of the training withoutcomplete dedication.
This sport forced me to balance my schedule, too. Toperform to the best of my ability, I had to sleep and eat right. This meant nosoda for six months, no candy or other sweets. I found myself going to bedearlier than normal to ensure proper rest.
I had to restrain myself fromparticipating in strenuous activity before each race. I also didn't play othersports to decrease the risk of injury, which was difficult since I have a passionfor so many sports. Dedication is a life skill I will incorporate in myactivities for the rest of my life.
I have also learned perseveranceand unity, which are both crucial in the future. To improve, I had to run fasterand harder each workout, which left me sucking in as much air as possible by theend of the workout. During those times when my muscles pleaded for mercy and Iwas about to fall into the deadly trap of walking, I would push myself even more.Once I started, I knew I had to give 110 percent and endure to theend.
Running six days a week in the unbearable 100-degree Arizona heattakes endurance, and to build that I had to keep running. The sweat would slideoff my face and I would get to the point where I felt like I was on top of theworld.
Unity also became a valuable factor in my life and cross country.For each race, the finishing positions of a team's top five runners are addedtogether and the one with the fewest points wins. As a team, we had to supportone another to perform and place well. One person doesn't win a race, the teamdoes. We would pump each other up before each race. The cheers and yells of ourwild crowd made the opposing teams look on in horror at the stampede of Mustangsfrom Phoenix.
All the skills acquired through sports have intertwinedwith my daily life. When I have responsibilities from parents, church leaders orothers, I know I have to carry them out. If I commit to a weekend job, dedicationand perseverance are key. As a team, unity is required for great achievements;family unity is needed for common goals and beliefs that will benefit the family.I can apply these to relationships, education and my future.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.