A New Finish LIne

October 1, 2012
My heart was beating a mile a minute as the adrenaline shot fiercely through my veins like a poison. Sweat trickled down my neck and onto my royal blue track jersey. I was at the North Carolina State Track and Field Meet, an aspiring sprinter in the midst of this competitive athletic event. The white thin lines where I would soon be crouching stared at me fearlessly. I made my way over to the check-in counter where I would receive my lane assignments. The smiling woman, who was clearly overworked and underpaid, announced my name followed by, “Heat 3 Lane 3!”

I finished my last warm-ups and approached that intimidating number. Its simplicity made my stomach feel as if it was about to hurl. I kneeled on the white rubber number, placed my left foot on the block, and awaited the final commands: “Runners take your mark. Get set. Go!” When I was at the block, I felt like a caged horse finally being set free to run wild. The second the gun went off and the gun powder shot into the air, I blasted full speed towards the finish line. The wind whistled in my ear as if trying to tell me to push as hard as I could. As my spikes pierced the track, my mind was blank. All I saw was that finish line, the one cleanly marked with orange and bystanders. My mom was in that crowd. Her presence made me push harder than I had ever pushed. I felt stronger and more powerful than ever before. This was my event, the 100 meter dash. I finished in third place for my heat and 10th overall. I could not help but smile. My coach smiled at me with approval. I knew I had made her proud. This had always been my dream; to make others proud. I didn’t care how I felt as long as I did my best to please those rooting for me.

Then I heard the first announcement for the 200 meter dash. This was my second favorite event. I went to the check-in counter once again, and the same woman, looking very exhausted at that point, struggled to get the words out. She had been telling runner after runner lane and heat assignments. I was just another runner to her. She told me I was in heat 2. I left the track until I heard the starters announce the lanes for heat 2. My name was nowhere on the list. I went back to the counter and asked the woman why I wasn’t on the list, and she told me that I was in the first heat. I felt as if a dagger was digging into my stomach. I tried to speak, but no words would come. I was speechless, in shock, and in pain. I ran to the starter and told him I was in the heat and that I needed to get my lane as soon as possible but all he responded was, “Your race has already started, I’m sorry.” A surge of tears made its way to my frightened eyes. I asked him, “Can I run in the next heat? Can I run with the boys? Can I run alone? Can I do anything?” All he did was apologize. I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do. I walked over to my coach, fighting the tears. She glanced at my face and it was as if everything I was feeling was written on my forehead. I needed not to say a word, she just knew. I kept strong and did not let even half a tear drop.
I felt as if there was a thunderstorm going on inside; each raindrop heavier and colder than the one before. It was just as I was struggling to keep this storm beneath the surface, when my teammate, who always practiced with me, came over. “I am not happy with my results,” he said. Right then and there, we decided that we would sprint 200 meters together once all of the events were finished. The other teams were leaving and my team stood there, wondering why he and I were still on the track at the 200 starting line. The clouds began to clear out and inside me, the sun came out. Together we yelled: “Take our marks, get set, go!” We both sprinted off to the finish line. Pushing each other on and finishing the last 200 meters of the year strong, was the most prideful event I had ever experienced. It felt amazing. I hadn’t done it to place first, or to beat him, or to make anyone happy; I had done it all for myself. His sweaty countenance brushed up against my cheek as he hugged me. We were both breathing in heavily, but happily. “I’m proud of you young one,” he said. “Next year, even though I won’t be competing, I will be standing right here watching you crush everyone!” His caring and motivating words have echoed in my head ever since. Our last 200 meter sprint together wasn’t just a sprint; it was the incipient of a new sentiment.

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