“Welcome to high school,” My coach says with a grin as the school bus we are both in skids to a stop.
With my green beats headphones on, rap music blaring in my ears I climb out of the big yellow bus and take in a deep breath of air. Hauling my backpack and a duffel bag full of track gear, I follow the rest of the crowd underneath some bleachers, where we will set up camp for the day. Today at high school, the 31st annual Oakland County Middle School track meet is happening, where the best runners from all around Oakland County come to compete. With over a thousand runners there, it is one of the largest middle school meets in the country. I am running the 800 meters, 2 laps around the track. Competing against about 45 kids in my event, it is by far the largest meet I have ever competed in, and to say the least, I was nervous.
I set my stuff down underneath the bleachers as I turn up my music and start to get hyped up for the competition ahead of me. I have about two hours to get ready in every way possible for what’s to come. Per my coach’s instructions, my whole team heads out to the track to run a warm up lap and do a bit of stretching. As I step out into the bright, warm sunlight, I can’t help but be amazed at the amount of kids who are here. Hundreds of kids strolling around the track, standing by the long jump pit chatting, or stretching out in the middle of the football field, wearing every color representing every middle school in Oakland County, each one with a unique uniform featuring their school’s logo. The amount of people shocks me, and it begins to settle in that I only have 2 hours to prepare to do battle with about 45 of these people. I start my warm up lap around the intimidating track, praying that I’ll do well later in the day.
2 hours goes by quicker than you’d expect it to. One second I’m getting off the bus, the next second I’m taking off my bright red sweats and my lime green headphones, putting on my red and white striped track spikes, grabbing a roller and a water bottle and heading out on the field for my final preparations before running the 800. I lay down on the bright green turf of the football field near a soccer net, taking deep breaths in and out, trying to calm my nerves. All around me are other kids which I’m about to go to war against, I feel surrounded. I begin to stretch out as I talk to myself, cmon, just two laps around, you got this. You’re going to do amazing, you got this.
My coach also offers encouraging words to me “Don’t be nervous, believe in yourself, you’re going to do great, just have some confidence!”
Yet no matter how many positive things I tell myself or am told, I can’t help but feel more and more nervous as the seconds tick by.
“Run hard when you’ve got the wind at your back,” My coach reminds me just before I head to the starting line.
This is your time now I say to myself before lining up at the starting line.
“On your marks…” I hear the starter announce. “Get set… bang!”
There’s the starting pistol and I’m off, along with everyone else. Oh my gosh these guys are going fast! I can’t help but say to myself. It feels like an all out sprint. My legs are already feeling dead, only about 200 meters in. But I know I can’t quit. I’m about 20 people back from the leader after 300 meters, where everyone in the race cuts into lane 1. As I cross the finish line after my first lap I glance up at the clock, I just ran a 58 second first lap, by far the fastest pace I’ve gone all season. 100 meters later and it’s time for me to really pick it up, this is where it counts. From 300 meters out I begin to put on the gas, passing people who neglected to begin their sprinting at the same time as me. Now there’s 200 meters to go, everyone is really picking up their pace now. 150 meters to go now,
“PUSH IT!!!” I hear my coach yell, as he watches from the sidelines.
100 meters left, 50 meters to go and I’m still flying past people, I fly across the finish line, and am given a little white paper card that lists my place on it. I quickly peek at the card, I got 13th, pretty good! I gasp for air as I dizzily trudge over to a table where I can get my time.
“You ran a 2:22,” I am told, and I could not be happier, as that is a personal record!
I stride back to my teams gathering place. I am greeted there by my teammates and coach who all congratulate me with cheerful praise. From there I head to the stands, where I find my family in the stands spectating, and they too all congratulate me on an amazing race. From there I leave high school, and I also leave behind middle school track, having just ran my last meet as a middle schooler. I breathe out a deep sigh of relief, I did so well, and I am proud of myself. Now it’s on to high school running, and whatever else is to come.