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I took one last sip of water before lying on the cold court. I adjusted myself so that my hands were even with the line and I could feel my heart pounding the ground. To my left lay ten other girls. I wondered who would valiantly succeed and who would not be making a team that night. A coach with orange-red hair and an unamused face stood against the wall, clearly just as ready for this part of tryouts to be over as we were.

Despite my lack of sleep, I felt physically prepared. I closed my eyes to mentally prepare myself. Just as I opened them, the coach blew her whistle.

I pushed against my hands to propel myself off the ground. I sprinted with all my might, arms moving to the rhythm of my steps. When I reached the first line, I swung my legs around, using my knee pads to slide. The instant my chest hit the ground, I was back on my feet, sprinting the other direction. I continued this motion until I finished my first round with time to spare.

Before I had time to recover, the coach called for my group to get back on the starting line. “I did it once, I can do it again,” I whispered to myself. The whistle sounded and we were off. This time, my exhaustion made me clumsy, and it took me much longer to lift myself off the line than before. Nevertheless, I completed the second set with a few seconds remaining. Some girls failed to finish within the time limit, and I felt an ounce of pity for them, knowing they wanted to make the volleyball team just as badly as I did. Many girls were throwing up in the trash cans, and others just lay on the ground in defeat. I reminded myself to stay strong.

As I prepared for the third set, I was still a bit lightheaded from the last one. I yawned as I placed myself on the line for a third time. The whistle seemed louder than ever, startling me a bit. I ran as fast as I could, which could not have been fast given my state of exhaustion. When I reached the fourth line out of five, I could barely keep up. I looked up at the clock to see how much time I had. If only I’d known that my glance would be my downfall. I lost my balance and fell face first before I reached the fifth line. I caught myself with my hands and shook my head. I had two choices: to get up or to give up. I hesitatingly lifted myself up just so I could get back on the ground to touch that fifth line. As I ran for the finish, I heard the buzzer. I was too late.

I crossed the finish line in defeat, nearly crying with pain and fear. I wanted to go home and never step foot on a court again. I stumbled over to the red-haired coach. “Do I have to keep going?” I stuttered.

“Well,” she began, “we encourage athletes to complete Midnight Madness even if they do not finish a round in time. However, you will still have to run all five rounds on another day in the allotted time if you want to make a team.” I walked away in silence.

When my group was called to run for a fourth time, I dragged myself to the line. “Why am I even doing this?” I asked myself, but my heart knew the answer.

I was nearly suffocating as I ran the last two rounds. At that point, half the freshmen had either given up, thrown up, or both. I refused to do either, and now I applaud myself for that.

That night of August 1st, 12:00 AM, was one of the most miserable nights of my life. When I got home, I cried tears of pain until I couldn’t bear the headache any longer.

Looking back at this moment, I wouldn’t change a thing because I learned what it meant to fight for something. I learned what it meant to never give up.

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