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Bang! The shot blasted and my legs reacted faster than my brain. Straight ahead of me was a staggered row of hurdles. The only visible part was the white plastic board lining the top, scuffed up with marks from the past. Each scuff is a bruise, reminding you of the risk you’re taking by jumping over each hurdle. They are unforgiving, cutting you no slack. Barely touch the hurdle with the side of your knee; you’re down on the track. Scrape your shoe coming off it; you’re tripping and stumbling. I’m not quite sure why this danger gives me such a thrill.

None of this is actually going through your mind when you’ve taken off from the start. Your legs start pumping and all your mind can say is jump, stride, jump. Ten hurdles sounds like nothing when talking about it, but when you’re racing, it seems like a mile.

The only sounds I heard were the girls next to me breathing hard and the sounds of hurdles being clipped by others. I was halfway done with the race, and in first place. All I could see was the finish line in front of me.

Just in that split second my brain reacted too fast. I jumped too soon when approaching the sixth hurdle and clipped my foot on it. The pain felt like I had kicked a cement block. My balance was way off, but I managed to keep striding, tripping slightly as I ran. My heart was pounding more loudly than a drum. The next hurdle was only two steps away and I was approaching it fast. I could barely think. All I could do was jump.

Still tripping from the sixth hurdle, I jumped and my leg caught on the seventh one. Only three more were left in front of me. If I would have won the race I would’ve been able to compete in the Rolley Morris (a big track meet). But I crashed, hard and brutally. I watched all the runners pass me. My knees ached and my whole body seemed to be throbbing. I attempted to fight the pain and get up. I told myself I wouldn’t cry. I was tougher than that. I slowly limped over the remaining hurdles and made my way to the finish.

Immediately I was swarmed with, “Are you okay?” “Jenna?” “How do you feel?” “What hurts?” “Please say something!”

I wasn’t sure how to answer. To be honest, I felt shocked and embarrassed. I had a knot caught in my throat, the feeling you get when you’re trying your absolute best to keep all your emotions inside. I managed to get myself away from the track and found a spot where I could just be alone. I silently cried to myself. The pain was awful, and I could barely bend my knees.

Before this year I had gone to state finals for hurdling, placing fourth, and not once did I ever clip a hurdle. So why, when it mattered most, did this happen? I think I just let the pressure of the moment get to me. I was running against two other girls from Hall. Only two out of the three of us would be able to compete in the Rolley Morris, so we were fighting for the best time. While I had run against these girls before just for fun, this time, it was important.

The sad part is, since that day, I’ve never run in another hurdle race. I’m terrified of them. The white plastic taunts me, saying, “You’re just another scuff mark.” I really do want to get back out on the track and just give it another try.

The day of the Rolley Morris came. The hurdles were the first event listed. At that point I was undecided if I really wanted to watch, but I ended up going to support my teammates. The gun fired and my heart jumped. I could picture myself running right along with those girls, giving everything I had. I watched the Hall girls run and thought, that could have been me!

It was a disappointment not to be in the race, but it did give me a different attitude. I have three years left in my high school life to show what I’m made of. This is only one hurdle in my life and I know many more are to come. I need to move on from what happened, and look forward to the future. Winning will take a lot of practice, and improving my skills will take even more. I’m up for the challenge.





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Jensmom said...
Nov. 28, 2009 at 9:43 am
Excellent article by a very talented author!!
 
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