Thursday, May 1, 2008

If only I could lose track of the memory

For anybody who has competed in sports, there is that one moment where everything clicks.

In basketball, you are in the zone. While batting in baseball, the ball seems almost the size of a softball. In football, you move a little quicker or you are just beating the stuffing out of the guy lined up across from you.

Back in our days, many of us played three sports. Some played four, if you count our rather lame effort to have a track team. Did I compete in track? As Paul Harvey says, "Here's the rest of the story!"

My track experience is not one of those moments where everything clicks. Actually, it falls into a far different category. We were in the ninth grade and must have done something really bad so Coach Bob Swinford entered us in a junior high track meet at Poteau.

For a few weeks, we ran, practiced handing off the batons, threw strange objects and ran some more.

Finally, the day arrived. It was track meet time. I don’t think any of us had ever been to a track meet before, aside from our coach. We were more concerned with going across the road to get snacks.

I had just returned from getting a sugar high when I wandered over to where the guys were throwing the discus, thinking that since I was supposed to do this, it might be a good idea to at least see how the others did it.

I sat down and started munching on some Cheetos when some coach hollered out “Last call for Hairrell and Hall from Heavener!” Oops! I had a pretty good idea who Hairrell and Hall from Heavener were. The Hall was the guy with Cheeto fingers while the Hairrell was my buddy, Scott.

Fortunately, he was with me. We told the coach who we were and avoided his dirty look. Then, it was our turn. Fortunately, we did not lose grip of the discus from greasy Cheeto fingers and kill somebody. That was the highlight. I believe we finished second and third from the last.

I don’t remember where the kid was who finished last, but I doubt his discus career continued after that spring day.

We got out of there as quickly as possible and made it to the football field and discovered it was time to run! I was on a 4x400 relay team. I don’t remember who else was on this team and probably wouldn’t mention their names if I remembered.

They had too many teams entered in the boys' division and only two girls teams entered. So somebody had the bright idea about us running with the girls.

To say we were a little overconfident would not be a stretch. The girls were from Talihina and Poteau. The three other members of our relay team took our place and expected an easy win.

That feeling lasted until the race started. The girl from Poteau took off like she was shot out of a cannon. The Talihina runner wasn’t far behind. It looked like our guy was running in concrete.

We were badly behind when our first runner made the one lap and handed the baton to our next runner. The Talihina girl was within sight. Sadly, the Poteau runner could have broken wind with one that would make the Guinness Book of World Records and we would not have known. Not that we would have probably wanted to know.

I was the third leg, for some reason. I believe we dropped the baton. But then, I took off. The Talihina girl must have been turtle slow as I actually made ground on her. I was just hoping the Poteau girl would not lap me. Finally, I passed the Talihina girl.

As I neared my teammates, my lungs were aching like they had never before. I had never run so hard for so far in my life. Please don’t yack! I begged myself. My legs were rubber. I could hear the footsteps from the girl behind me.

Stars suddenly appeared in the middle of the day. It felt like somebody was sticking a machete in my side. My teammates urged me (actually, it was more like begged) to run faster, as if. Finally, I started to hand off the baton, but had to tell my teammate to slow the heck down. I was through, in more ways than you could imagine. Fortunately, I made it over to the grass of the football field before falling down.

The three of us sat there, wheezing together, as we watched our final runner (the last leg) try and make one lap going full speed. Okay, full speed does not sound accurate.

Finally, he made the last turn. Luckily for us, the final Talihina girl was either slow or fell on the backstretch. We didn't finish last, only losing to one girls team! The four Poteau girls were celebrating, probably, not that we even acknowledged their presence. There were several boys’ teams looking at us like we had embarrassed all the guys in the world, which we probably did.

That was the last time I competed in a track meet. Don’t ask why.


At May 1, 2008 at 7:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story, Craig. Thanks.

At May 1, 2008 at 10:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't even remember if we had a track team, you know, 'back in the day'.


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