The Final Chance

After she finishes patting off the excess water on her body from the shower, she applies her usual Saturday outfit: crimson sweatpants with Spaulding Track & Field on the left leg, and a white under shirt followed by a white and crimson jersey with Spaulding written across the front. The black hoodie with Spaulding Track & Field on the left front corner finishes the outfit with her last name stitched on her right sleeve, and her event, shot put, screened across the back. She enters the kitchen, pours herself a quick bowl of cereal and a tall glass of milk to prepare for the big day, her last chance to qualify for states. She has the determination to throw the distance, 25 feet, in order to join her teammates at the State Championship Meet. As she dumps her dishes in the sink, she triple checks her track bag: sneakers, MP3 player, camera, two blankets, a pillow, and, of course, the team shot put, which the team named “Bruny.” As she picks up the shot, the look in her eye changes to recognition of the object she has come to love. Her dad gently taps her shoulder, asking Kristy if she is ready to go. She nods, returns Bruny to her bag, pulls the strap around her shoulder, and makes her way out to her dad’s silver Tucson.

The sun begins to rise above the horizon and the cold nips at every ones feet and hands as the track team loads the bus one by one. The throwers, all girls, stay up front as each one takes her own seat. Kristy is in seat seven, as normal, with Catherine, another thrower, directly across from her. Simultaneously, they all reach for their iPods and MP3 players, insert earphones, and relax for the 30-minute bus ride to Norwich University. As her eyes close, it seems as though all worries wash away, yet no one knows that inside she continues to think about her technique and how disappointed she will be if she does not make states.

“To be Loved” by Papa Roach bursts through her earphones, and she awakens suddenly, scans her surroundings, and recognizes the entrance to Norwich University. When the bus stops, she removes her earphones, proceeds off the bus, and walks to the field house with her teammates. The big metal door opens as a woman pushes it from the inside and the four throwers and the runners enter onto the burnt-red track with white lines dividing the lanes. The team swiftly makes its way over to an open space in the middle of the track where they drop their stuff and begin to remove blankets and pillows from their bags. Her lips form a smile as her comfort level rises when the four throwers share two pillows. They lie on four different blankets, wrapping themselves in other blankets. She wrinkles her nose as Alicia’s hair tickles it and Kristy readjust her head to move away from the hair. Her eyes close and her worries momentarily fade away as Kristy and her teammates wait for their event to be called.

“First call: girls’ shot put!” echoes through the field house. She leaps to her feet and joins her teammates as they stretch and prepare for their event. The four of them proceed to the circle, wait to check in, and find out when they will throw. After other names, she hears her name, Kristy Smith, bellowing from Fontaine’s loud voice. She lifts her head and responds “here” loud enough for him to hear as she scans the crowd and finds her dad, Karl. Kristy holds up two fingers to indicate second flight. He nods and she refocuses her attention on Fontaine, the administrator of the shot put event, who is reciting the rules of the event that she knows so well.

As other girls take practice throws, she holds the shot put up against her neck and waits for her turn. After a few practice throws for each person, the first round begins. She ignores the other throwers and instead, slightly removes herself from the group and works on her technique: right foot slightly ahead of the left in a shoulder-width length stance, knees bent, upper-body elongating over her right leg. A quick switch of the feet, left arm swings back in a block and her right arm goes up. Kristy feels satisfaction as she returns to the group and realizes the first round is almost over and they allow one more practice throw. She completes her last practice as she hears Baitz, her coach, call her name and she approaches him. “I’m not expecting states out of you today. I’m expecting a personal record. Just do your best.” She smiles in acknowledgment and tries to focus on her goal: to be a state championship qualifier. She has come so far this year, moving up from last year’s personal record of 22 feet, to entering the first indoor meet this year with 23 feet, and with each week that passed, she slowly increased her distance.

Fontaine calls her name for her first of three throws, and she walks across the metal square surrounding the wooden circle. She positions her feet a good distance from the white toe-board so she will not fall over. As she begins her throw, form and technique creep unshakably into her mind. Her body elongates back over her right leg, and she swings back around, pushing her hips up and arm high into the air. Her feet switch as the eight pound shot flies out of her hand. She is now standing in the circle, left arm bent with her hand at chest level, right arm still out at her angle, feet slightly off balance as she regains her control and sees the shot rolling onto the green-padded floor towards the retrievers. She exits the back half of the circle, picks up her shot, and hears the distance, “24 feet, six inches.” She nods in acknowledgment and awaits her next turn as she goes over her technique three times before she is happy with it. Her technique is her only focus as she waits for her name to be called for second throws.

Again, she enters the circle and repeats her stance. Kristy looks straight ahead, yet sees nothing. As her body swings back around she feels herself loosing balance. She knows this will not be her qualifying throw, but assures herself she has one more to go, and continues the throw. Her feet switch and the ball flies though the air. Kristy leaves the circle and retrieves the shot. Her distance is called, “24 feet even.”

Kristy returns to the group and her teammates slap her on the shoulder, telling her to shake off the bad throw. She knows where she went wrong and knows how to fix it. Josh, an assistant coach, approaches her slowly and says to her, in his calm voice, “Hey, you’re out of class. Stop thinking and just throw.” She nods, knowing he is right because when she thinks about technique she always screws up, yet when she throws without constant thinking, it comes out right. Kristy shakes off the throw and pushes it to the back of her mind as she waits for Fontaine to call her name for the last time.

Finally, Fontaine calls third and final throw for the second round. “Smith” is called for the last time. Her excitement overpowers her and she feels this will be her best throw. Her mind is blank about technique, and she focuses on pushing the shot far into the air. She wipes her feet across the circle, plants her left foot up against the white toe-board, and takes one-step away from it, giving herself enough room so she does not fall over the front, which would disqualify her for that throw. With her arm still reaching high in the air, her eyes focus on the lights across the field house, as she stretches her left arm out to match the angle of the lights. As her right arm lowers, the shot rests against her neck, her knees bend, and she takes a step back with her right leg. Her left foot turns slightly and her upper-body stretches back over her right leg. Her left arm goes back over her right leg as she brings her body back around, hips up, right arm up aiming for the lights, her left arm swings around blocking her body. There is a smooth switch of the feet and the shot flies out of her hand. As Kristy exits the circle, she makes eye contact with her teammates, who smile and cross their fingers. She retrieves the shot, closes her eyes in anticipation of the final distance. Fontaine calls the qualifying distance, 25 feet, 1 inch. Overwhelmed with excitement, Kristy runs to her teammates and coaches, who congratulate her for making states.





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