My mind is racing, screaming thoughts at me saying, telling me “DON’T SCREW THIS UP! Just get out there and run!” The few seconds prior to the race starting feel like hours, waiting...and waiting. “On your marks!” BANG! I go through this many times over a season, but butterflies overwhelm me just as many.
When high school track athletes finish their regular season of running they have the post-season to look forward to. The Subsections, Sections, and even State track meets. However, for junior high athletes, the season simply comes to a close. In Minnesota, this all changed in 2015 when the Kasson-Mantorville track and field coach organized the Adidas sponsored Junior High Elite meet. The reasoning behind this was for young athletes like myself to set a goal aiming for the Elite Meet, just as high-schoolers would aim for Sections or State. Coaches from all across Minnesota are able to enter their athletes into this meet, but in most cases, there are too many entries and it is narrowed down to only the best few competitors in each race and field event. As an eighth grader I was privileged to have been offered a chance to run in this unique meet. Without further ado, here is my track journey, what I have learned from it, and how it has impacted me.
In seventh grade my friends convinced me to come out for track. Thus begins my track career. Although I didn’t have very much success in my debut season, it was a blast. So, after having such a great time in my first season, and noticing that I had made some progress in such a short amount of time, I made the decision to really start taking track seriously, training in the offseason. Right at the start of my eighth grade season I was already having more success, especially in the 800 meter run. So that’s what I turned my attention to. This is when I began believing that I have a chance to really go places, by focusing on my strong suits. It took me a while to figure out exactly what path I wanted to follow in track, but soon I realized that the 800m is unquestionably that path. Throughout the season I slowly but surely kept lowering my half mile time, day in, day out. I was privileged to be allowed to run the 800m in a few Varsity meets, which was a great experience for me, preparing me for high school track. Then, this experience and success led to another significant opportunity for me.
Qualifying for the Junior High Elite meet was a huge milestone for me and for my confidence. Prior to the race I didn’t feel this confidence though, being seeded eighth of twelve isn’t a very good feeling. Then racetime came around and I threw all those negative feelings out the window. Giving myself a little pep talk, I find my starting line, and I find myself there again. Mind racing, screaming thoughts telling me “DON’T SCREW THIS UP! Just get out there and run!” The few seconds I wait feel like hours, waiting...waiting. “On your marks!” My heart skips a beat and then, silence. BANG! “GO! GO! GO!” my mind yells at me, and I respond. I get out there quick, staying with the pack, as that was my strategy. In what seems like just moments, we are halfway done, I have to make my move soon. I begin to kick it in, then coming down the straightaway, I dig as far down as possible with whatever I have left. I cross the line in fifth, but as champion in my mind.
Ninth grade has undoubtedly been my breakthrough season. Going from a 2:15 800m to a 2:07 in one season isn’t too shabby if I do say so myself. I am beginning to close in on the school record, which would be another huge milestone in my track career. Yet this is not my focus at the moment. As a vital part of the 4x800m relay team I have helped us get through Subsections and off to the Section meet, with a chance to make a run for state. Ha, run, track puns. I want this more than anything right now, not for me, but for the guys alongside me. June 1st could be the most important thing I have done yet when it comes to sports, when we race for state. Hopefully next season I’ll come with state experience, back bigger and stronger ready to do it all over again.
Throughout my track journey I have learned many, many things. Some little, and some huge. Surely, the biggest thing that has stuck with me is learning that hard work is more important than just having natural talent. As a scrawny 7th grader, I never would have believed that I would be where I am today when it comes to track. Surely I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t worked so hard and cared like I have. As a little kid joining just cause his friends were in it, I didn’t have the natural physical ability like a lot of my competitors. However, I discovered the dedication that it takes to improve, and you can’t discover that dedication unless you have the heart. I remember kids that I could never beat in middle school, and now they are the same kids that I never lose to. They obviously haven’t discovered what I have yet. That day that I crossed the finish line at the Elite Meet, a sense of pride, of heart, overwhelmed me. When I take the track with my 4x800 team a sense of pride, of heart, overwhelms me, I run with heart for them, not for myself. Now, I feel it every time I finish a race, every time I accomplish something I care about, because my track journey has placed that heart in me.