It was my second varsity cross country race. I was a sophomore in high school. I ran the first meet as varsity, but the #8 girl was on my tail by time, since she had run in the JV race. I remember cheering for her, and then running to the finish line to cheer her on desperately hoping at the same time that she wouldn’t beat my time. She passed out about 400 meters before the finish line. Myself and another varsity team member made it over there first. I wondered if she had been wanting that varsity spot as bad as I had. Ironically, we were best friends and battled the whole season for that last varsity spot. She beat me once. One of last deciding-factor meets before regionals, I remember her saying to me, “you want it so much more than me–and you’ve been working way harder.” To this day I’m not completely sure if she purposely backed off the last few meets because she didn’t have much of a desire to go to regional and state. All I knew was that ALL I wanted was to be on varsity. And so I was.
The part I remember the most, about that season though was the second meet. It was a different meet: there were seven races. The #1 runners from all the schools ran in the #1 race. The #2 runners from all the schools, in the #2 race and so on and so forth. I ran the #7 race, against all the other schools #7 runners. I was incredibly nervous and excited at the chance to prove myself. Half way through the race I found myself with the leading pack. I told myself to go with it, and the last mile of the race I remember struggling to keep the pace, but confident I could. The last 1/2 mile I was afraid I was slowing down, but the finish line becomes visible. This helped me tremendously and I ran as hard as I could the rest of the way in. That was my first genuine taste of being good at running.
There was an awards ceremony after the meet for each race. I think the top 7 got medals in each race. I was a medalist, and got the #4 award. There is a picture of me waiting to get my medal. I have the biggest smile ever on my face. I was so proud and so happy.
I can still taste the excitement, the early morning summer practices, and the sweat-turned-salt.