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Ten Quick Steps This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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My green jersey had a new red stain. A girl had spiked my knee 200 ­meters into the race. I started to limp. A blister rubbed against my shoe, and I felt it break open. But it didn’t hurt as much as my knee.

My target was 10 meters ahead of me. I couldn’t reach her because three girls blocked the way, two red and one blue. Even though my competition was right beside me, all I could think about was reaching that girl in the green jersey, the girl from my own team.

As I tailed her I thought, Ten quick steps, ten quick steps. That’s how Coach had taught us to pass other runners. Ten quick steps. I wiped the blood on my jersey. Ten quick steps. She was only five ­meters away now. I tugged my shorts down off my hips. Ten quick steps. I was looking at her number, trying to memorize it: 455.

I had a thousand meters left. If I could just pass her, she would slow down. Mentally break down. Ten quick steps. I was on her heels, breathing onto her back. I rounded the corner and slightly bumped her to get the inner edge. I was with her, running with her. Ten quick steps. Then I was ahead, picking up my pace. I could hear her breath start to shake. She was trying to stay with me, leaning forward so as not to collapse.

It was awkward afterward, seeing her try not to cry in front of everyone. Having to beat a teammate is always hard. I tried not to talk to her, because neither of us would know what to say. We were friends. We had been running side by side since middle school. But this year was tough with the new freshmen taking open spots. The seventh spot was the last one left by the end of the season. Only one person could claim it. This race had determined who would ­remember running and who would remember watching.

I remember running. I remember running in a tightly knit pack of green jerseys, winning the district and regional ­titles, and continuing on to place at state. I remember celebrating for twice as long as we should have. I remember her smiling, celebrating with us. She was wearing the colorful boa, the green bandana, and the face paint. I was wearing the red-stained jersey.

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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