On the Right Track This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 21, 2012
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I was a short, scrawny boy standing in a sea of tall, muscular men. I watched their sinewy arms with apprehension. A gunshot sounded, and I watched eight bodies of solid muscle fly down the track, arms pumping furiously. I gulped.

I was about to compete in the freshman 100-meter heats of the Bruce Selman Memorial Invitational Meet, a citywide track and field championship. As the only Asian-American competing, I heard taunts from fellow racers – “Hey kid, you sure you're in the right place?” – and could feel the crowd's dubious eyes on my back. Nevertheless, I lined up for my race. At the sound of the gun, I blazed down the track, breaking away from my competitors. The crowd roared “Oh! Did you just see that?!” as I crossed the finish line first and alone.

After the heats ended, the announcers began calling the names of the 100-meter finalists. I heard my name filter through the static of the intercom, so I jogged across the field to a meet official and asked where I should report for the 100-meter finals.

“Uh … what are you looking for?”

“The 100-meter finals.”

“You're in the 100-meter finals?”

“Yes, I think I heard my name being called.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I answered firmly. He pointed to the far end of the field.

Again the gunshot roared. Again, as I ran, the finish line seemed to reach out and grab me like a winner.

Two years later, I awaited the 100-meter finals at the Manhattan Borough Championships, the culmination of six years of training. As I listened for “On your mark,” I thought about what I had overcome to get here. Since that first race, I had stopped being timid and unsure of myself, and realized how good I could be. Now I know I can win because I have worked harder than anyone else. Many days, I went to school early to work one-on-one with my coach. I was the first person to arrive at practice and the last to leave. Slowly but surely, I rose up the ranks of varsity sprinters in Manhattan.

For six years, track has taught me the value of setting goals and working hard. Although I had doubts about winning the finals, reflecting about my track experiences helped me realize that no matter how seasoned my competitors are, I can achieve my goals through unrelenting diligence. With that in mind, I lined up for the Manhattan Borough Championships' 100-meter finals and waited.

The gunshot roared. As I ran, the finish line seemed to reach out and, this time, propel me toward success, my life.

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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