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Ian Celers sat on the cold, steel bench at the regional championship track meet. He is the best long-distance in the grade and in the top five in the state. He is not the only one. David, another decent runner, is sitting next to him. They sit in silence, not talking to each other.
Ian and David used to be friends, until Ian started hanging out with more popular people. Ever since the 5th grade Ian would always go to David’s house after school because they lived so close together.
David also ran long distance so he would be racing against Ian in the championship round. Since long distance events are last, all they could do was wait. Countless hours went by with only Ian and David on the bench, not talking. Occasionally the other runners in the regional championship would sit down a little bit, but then they would leave for another event.
Finally, it was time for the long distance event and Ian lethargically jogged to his lane alongside David’s. Running came natural to Ian. It was just part of who he was. It defined him. Some people say if you looked up the word long-distance in the dictionary it would say “Ian Celers”.
Ian was prepared for this event. He had spent countless hours of training running up hills in the neighborhood with backpacks filled with rocks, pushups with his 6-year brother on his back, and swimming up-stream in a river that runs through his backyard. There was no possible way he could lose.
The gun sounded and he jumped up from his starting position, moving gracefully and with power. He easily passed David and the other runners who could not match his pace. He maintained the lead the whole time with not much of a challenge.
At the end of the race, Ian finished first with nearly a two-minute lead on the other runners. David finished in 4th place. He took his trophy and went over to his mom’s car in a hurry because it was nearly ten o’clock. Ian got in the back seat of his mom’s compact car.
“You were great out there!” said his mom.
“Oh, thanks mom,” replied Ian
“Ian, did you see some of those kids out there?” his mom asked.
“Ya,” he said
“The ones with the mohawks and colored hair?” said his mom.
“Sure,” Ian replied.
“It looked like some of them did drugs,” said his mom.
“I’m not surprised,” he answered.
“Do any of the kids at your school drugs,” she asked
“Not really,” Ian said
“Because it seems like…” She never finished the sentence. They were crossing the intersection at the same time as another car went flying passed the red light and smashed into the side of Ian’s car. Ian and his mom were sent skidding across the road and into a ditch.
Ian woke up later the next day to find himself lying in a bed in a hospital room. He looked around and noticed that his leg was in a cast. Just in the doctor came in and talked about his leg was broken in two places but he would make a full recovery. He told Ian that his mom was in another room but she only had several bruises. Also, the driver who had hit them was drunk and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt so he died instantly upon contact. Ian didn’t listen much; all he could think about was one thing.
Why me, if anyone. I am the only one capable of winning the long-distance championship which will help us win the trophy this year. We have to win it this year to have the all-time record of most state championships won and have one more trophy than that stupid Newman West School. We tied it up last year and if we win it again we will have the lead for the first time in school history. I have let my team and the whole school down. Why couldn’t it have been someone else? Drunk drivers should be thrown in jail forever if they're not already dead.
Wait, if I can’t go to the championship, then that means I’m disqualified. If I’m disqualified, the all the runners move up one spot. Since David was fourth, he moves up one spot to third, so he’s in the top three now. Since the top three move one, he’s in the championship! At least we have a chance. But David will never be able to win, nor will he beat the Newman West runner, unless I do something about it.
He had to go find David if Keller High ever wanted a chance to bring back the trophy this year and beat Newman West. Ian hobbled to David’s house a block away from his own. He rang the doorbell and David answered.
“Oh, hey Ian, what brings you here?” David asked.
“David if you want to win the race in the championship round next Saturday and not let the school you better follow me,” Ian said.
“Oh, I don’t think . . . I should just…” Ian interrupted David’s sentence
“Stop making excuses for yourself and let’s go,” Ian said. With that, David instantly followed him.
“Where are we going?” David asked after a little while.
“You’ll see,” replied Ian.
After a while of walking they reached the hill and stream where Ian always exercised on. He gave David a backpack and told him to open it. David complied, and Ian picked up some rocks and filled the backpack up to the brim. “Now run up this hill and come back down when you’ve reached the top,” Ian said.
“You got to be kidding,” said David.
“Unless you want to lose the trophy for Keller High I suggest that you do what I tell you,” Ian replied. “This is what I do every day to prepare myself to win.”
“This is useless! I’m not gonna win anyway!”
“You’ll never win with that attitude. Now go!” Ian yelled
With that thought, David started lazily up the hill.
When he came back down Ian immediately said, “Do it over again, my grandma could do better than that.” This time David marched up the hill with a sense of urgency. When David came back down, breathing heavily, he took off the backpack and fell on the ground in exhaustion. Ian stopped his stopwatch and said, “That was better, could use some improvement, but a good start.
Next they went to the creek that was just wide and deep enough for a person to swim in. Ian told David to jump in and he did so. David swam upstream until he got to the point where Ian told him to stop, which was at a bridge that marked about 2 miles from where they started. He crawled of the creek and sat on a tree stump and tried to catch his breath.
“There is still lots of room for improvement, but good enough for today,” said Ian. “You are free to go.” With that, David left. Throughout the whole week, David continued to get better at those two activities, but would that be enough to help him the championship?
Finally, Saturday had arrived. Ian’s mom dropped him off at the track stadium. He found a spot on the bleachers and watched the events. Ian watched every event through the whole day and Newman West was barley beating Keller High, all of the other schools had no chance of winning the trophy. If David got first in this next race, then Keller will win the trophy.
It was finally time for the long distance event and Ian went down to David to give him a little pep talk. “Relax David, and remember what I have taught you, and you’ll do fine,” Ian assured him.
“I know, I know, don’t waste all my energy in the beginning,” David replied.
“If you do that, you will have a chance at winning, and beating the Newman West runner,” he said. Then the announcer called the runners to get to their lanes.
“Well, good luck . . . your gonna need it,” Ian said. Then he walked back to his spot in the stands.
David waited anxiously in his lane. He had never been under so much pressure. Normally he just relied Ian to win for him. Now with him out of the picture, it was all up to him. If he lost this race, then he would let down the whole school.
David got in his ready stance and anticipated the gunshot. The gun went off and David jumped up like Ian did and started a brisk pace, but not too fast. The other runners sprinted passed him, but he knew that their energy wouldn’t last long enough till the end of the race.
Slowly but surely, David began to close the gap between him and the runners. It was getting near the first quarter of the race and he had passed four runners already who had begun to slow their pace and preserve their energy. Now most of the other runners had settled down on their pace and begun to stick with it.
Halfway through now he had passed all but three runners and they showed no sign of giving up. Two of the three runners ahead of him were no more but a couple of steps in front of David, but the other was about ten seconds in front of him. Now it was three fourths of the way through and David began to panic. His instinct told him to sprint but he remembered his training that told him to wait till the last 100 meters or else you will lose all your energy. Gradually the two runners barely in front of him began to give ground as they slowed down. They obviously had run out of energy to keep their fast pace. Now he only had one more runner to beat and there were 200 meters left. Of course, it was the Newman West runner. He was so good, even Ian had a hard time outrunning him.
“He’s not gonna make it,” Ian said
Now there were 150 meters and David switched to overdrive mode. He broke free of his pace and instantly began to all-out sprint. David rounded the last corner and the last stretch of the race began. The Newman West runner was getting dangerously close to the finish line and David struggled to catch up with him. All of David’s muscles cried for a rest, but all of those hours of running up the hill and swimming upstream kept them going. Finally the Newman West runner started to give way and David was making up ground. The Newman runner made a costly error and took a second to look behind to see where David was. He had finally run out of gas and David was about to catch him.
The finish line was now less than 25 meters away and David was a hair behind the Newman runner now desperately trying to hold on to the lead. Everything in David’s body seemed to be screaming for oxygen, but he would let up. They were 10 meters away and they were neck and neck, then David made one last attempt to pass him. David leaned forward as the reached the finish line and he dove with his head leading the way and crashed onto the asphalt. It was a photo finish and the cameraman video taped the ending and tried to decide who one. When he finally came to a decision he said David had won.
“I told you he’d make it!” Ian screamed. David then ran up the stands to where Ian was.
“Thanks for everything.” David said.
“No problem, now lets go to my house this time,” Ian said. And with that, they left for Ian’s house.