Winners by Birth, Champions by Choice

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May of 2010. The month bombarded with AP testing, Prom, and sadness that senior year was about to come to a close. There were many moments in that month that I remembered. Some moments brought excitement, some brought along tears, and some just brought the feeling that I’m definitely lucky to be alive and surrounded by such wonderful people. I will never forget my last track meet and League Finals of my high school career. There was an air of anxiety that day but also an aura of confidence that exuded from my fellow track peers.

I was scheduled to run the last race of the day, the 4 x 400 m relay. This race consists of four athletes sprinting around the entire track handing each other the baton at the end of each grueling lap. Track athletes don’t call this race the “Race of Hell” for nothing.

At about 7:00 P.M., my three teammates and I began to warm up. Anxiety and nervousness were flooding our systems. We scouted around for the other relay teams and became incredibly worried that we would not prevail after the race. I was the one especially worried myself because I was the first runner to start. As we stretched, I was thinking to myself, “Alex, this is your last race of high school. You can win it.” I was already sweating and the race didn’t even start yet. My heart raced rapidly, thudding against my chest. My body began to feel numb from head to toe. My breathing rate became heavy and slow. I was living in the moment of the race. I had never been so nervous before. Although I’ve ran in many relays during my high school track career, I had never ran in the finals and as the first runner to start. I felt the pressure of my relay team and the entire track team resting upon my shoulders.

Fifteen minutes before the race, the announcer told the athletes to come out onto the middle of the field. From the field, my vision broadened and my vital signs raced. I saw numerous parents and spectators in the stands which did anything but help calm my nerve-racking feelings. I received the starting baton from my coach. He said to me with an exasperated sigh, “Good luck,” as if he thought we were going to lose. Well, I was about to prove him dead wrong. All the relay teams gathered onto the field. They too seemed extremely nervous. Many of them were jumping up and down to calm their nerves as well as to warm up. The proctor announced over the microphone for all teams to step onto the track in our designated lanes. I was the first one on. I looked around me and I saw and heard teammates, friends, and family rooting for me. This brought at least some relief and boosted my confidence. Although there were so many people cheering me on, I still felt the heavy burden of starting first and getting a good lead in the race. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by my dominating role. My hands grew cold and numb and I felt butterflies in my stomach. Again, my breathing became irregular but came back to normal as the proctor said, “Have a good race, gentleman.” This was it. It was time. Finally, he told us, “On your mark, get set…” and the gun fired. When that gun fired, I felt a feeling like no other. All of my emotions and feelings just rushed out of my body. My hands came back to normal and there were no more butterflies. I exploded out of my starting blocks. I saw people behind me and people in front of me. The crowd went crazy with everyone cheering for their high school. It’s amazing how cheering can positively affect one’s performance. The sounds of whistle blowing and yelling came through to my senses. I quickly accelerated on the first straight away and that took a toll to my body. My body began to feel numb and my breathing grew heavy. The first three legs of the track is all physical capability but the fourth and final leg is one hundred percent mental. My running form grew sloppy when I came to the last leg. I saw everyone lined up alongside the track to cheer their teammates on. With a burst of inspiration and motivation, I sped up to catch up to the runners in front of me. My legs and arms started to die out on me. And lastly, I leaned forward to hand the baton to the second leg runner. That was it for me. I gave a third place lead out of six teams. I was exuberated but at the same time dead exhausted. I fell onto the ground begging for water but could not help but see how my teammate was fairing against the competition. Amazingly, he surpassed one runner in his race putting us in second place so far. Excitedly, I sprinted back and forth across the field ferociously cheering them on. They were able to surpass all the runners and that brought the crowd into a joyous uproar. At this point, I was definitely proud to be on the team and also proud of my teammates. We managed to pull off second place in the end but we won enough points in the previous events to become League Champions. I ran and group-hugged all three of my mates while we were jumping up and down in excitement.

At the end of everything, the proctor announced, “In first place, Ridgemont High School!” The team was filled with confidence and accomplishment. At this point, I knew all the arduous track workouts under the blazing sun had not been in vain. All the hours I put into weight lifting at the gym made me feel like a success.

Finally, my team stood on the podium for second place and received our silver medals. I felt like we had done our job and made the team extremely proud. Our choices that we made to go to practices, train hard, and listen to the coaches made us a genuine championship team. Winning was one thing but winning with hard work and determination was definitely something to cherish forever.





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