Lungs thrust in and out trying to break free from my tightened rib cage. My heart doesn’t want to give in while my mind is saying, “Well, maybe if we slow down a bit…”
“You can do it,” whispered a Classical student who ran next to me.
“Keep going,” I believed the other said under her breath, “Good job.”
I was shocked to realize that even my opponents were rooting for me. Only in a perfect world, right?
“WE CAN DO THIS!” my mind shouted. My short legs picked up such a speed that I didn’t know I had. My heart raced and I sprinted pass those girls, running alone to the finish line. I stopped, leaned over and kept heaving. One of the boys from my team came rushing to me and held onto me as we walked to get bottled water. This was an amazing moment for me. I was proud to be a part of the Juanita Sanchez Cross Country team. That day, if I remember correctly, we won the high school city races.
This memory soothe me one morning as I looked at memorabilia from my season in cross country. The medal we’ve received from the city race, my “Most Improved Female Runner” trophy, and my plaque which featured my team, our coaches and me. The greatest reward was just the privilege of being on a team.
Being involved in cross country gave me a sense of endurance and community. I understood what it was like to not give up and train with a group of teenagers and coaches who’ve eliminated those words from their vocabulary. Every afternoon we would train together keeping one another accountable. We would constantly try to bring the best out of each other, ultimately bringing the best out of ourselves. And man it felt good to shout, “JUANITA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” every now and then.
I wonder if that spirit still exists today. Do teenagers still create a bond among one another that doesn’t consider who you are, your back ground, how much money your family make or what team you are on? Do adults do that? Or is it still a beautiful movie that plays in my mind? It’s okay, because for as long as I can, I will play it over and over and over again.