Breaking for the Hurdles This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

This was my last chance. I was at the starting line of my school’s final track meet, preparing to start the hurdles. The blue University of Maine track stretched around me, with five hurdles strategically placed. The track circled the football field, and the stands were packed with excited parents. I could smell fresh popcorn at the concession stand nearby. A light breeze was playing with my hair as I stepped up to the starting line with five other girls. We were the last race of the day and we all had the same goal: to place.

I nervously stretched my legs while the starter loaded his gun. As I stretched, I concentrated on my breathing. Reach IN. Reach OUT. Reach IN. Reach OUT. When I finished I raised my shaking hand to my mouth and chewed on my nails. My eyebrows raised and my nose scrunched at the taste of nail polish.

Finally, he was ready. “Runners to your marks!” I got in position: one leg bent, the other slightly straighter, with my fingertips barely touching the line. My nervousness and desire to win overwhelmed me, and my limbs began to shake. Butterflies fluttered nauseatingly in my stomach, and my excitement made me twitch every time someone spoke, thinking it was the gun.

“Get set!” I shook even more. BANG! The gun went off and I pushed off, getting a good start toward the first hurdle. Cleared. Step, step, step. On to the next. I ticked that one with my knee, and did the one thing hurdlers shouldn’t do: I thought about it. Oh no, what if I knocked it over?! So I ticked the next one, and then I really thought about it. Two left. Oh man! Why’d I do that? Why?! Why can’t I clear them like in practice?

One hurdle left now. I saw girls running up, almost ahead of me. I have to three-step fast. Left, right, left. JUMP! My straight right leg went over perfectly, but my bent left leg didn’t. I started to fall and threw out my arms to catch myself. First my left hand felt the track, the bumpy tar cutting into my palm. I could tell now it was a big fall. In my head, I started to swear, surprising myself with my colorful word choices.

My left hand was sliding a bit on the ground while the rest of my body shifted. My flying legs started to fall and the lower half of my body tumbled to the ground. Please don’t look too stupid! I screamed in my head. My right hand finally connected with the ground to help the rest of my body, but it was hopeless. I could tell that my right leg was scraped. My right wrist didn’t catch me, so I started to roll.

I saw the sky once, felt my leg scrape again, worse, and then saw the sky a second time. My flailing body finally stopped moving, and I quickly stood. I sprinted as fast as possible to the looming finish line, the two seconds of my fall replaying in my head. How can I get a ribbon with a fall like that eating up all that time? I cried hopelessly in my head.

All of my competitors stood at the finish line, and I joined them. Then I noticed that my right wrist hurt, so I shook it, trying to get rid of the pain. I looked at the girl next to me and hissed, “Well, that was my worst race ever.” I couldn’t keep my anger inside.

That was when I really looked at my wrist. It had a bump where it shouldn’t – the bone was supposed to be on the side, not in the middle. Then I realized it was broken.

I’m sure you want to know what happened then, but “My Trip to the Hospital” is another story.Ì€

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Cetacean said...
Sept. 23, 2008 at 9:21 pm
I love the way you described that. I had a fall exactly like that once, but I scraped off half my skin instead of breaking my wrist. Hurdles is definitely one of my most challening Track
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