Story by Michelle Smith
It was the spring of my seventh grade, and spring meant one thing to me: track season. Let’s just say it was quite a while ago, however I remember like it was yesterday. I can remember the butterflies that wouldn’t stop fluttering until I had crossed that finish line, and the heat from the track as I would position myself in the starting blocks. I loved (and still do) all sports, but most of all, I loved the thrill of running to beat the clock. I always thought of myself as a sprinter however there wasn’t anybody on the track team that was willing to run the one-mile race. The coach decided that I would be a good candidate to run that race and I said “Sure”. I’m not someone who would say no to my coach, even though everything in my body was saying “Are you crazy?!”
The track meet that I am taking you to would be the All-Conference 7th grade track meet, and I was entered in the one-mile and in the 100-meter dash; something that isn’t done very often. You tend to be sprinter or a long distance runner, but not both. I will be honest and tell you that the 1600 was not my favorite and not one I excelled at. The sprints (100, 200, & 400) were my favorite and ones that I thought I was great at. My parents were always very supportive and on that day, dad’s encouraging words of, “You can do it”, “I know you and you always do great”, and the ever famous, “Go get ’em!”, helped ease my nervousness that I tried so hard to get rid of. However, those butterflies and the lump in my throat that felt like a softball, would not go away. So I tightened up the laces on my running shoes and took off to the starting line of what I thought was going to be the longest mile in history. The race seemed to go on forever, and though I didn’t win, I did finish 4th and that was fine with me.
I now felt I could focus on the race that in my heart and mind I thought I could win. Don’t get me wrong, I tried and I didn’t give up on that mile race I ran as hard as I physically could. My legs were not long distance legs. After the ¾ mile point they had begun to tremble and ache for me to stop, but I did my best. After the race my dad embraced me and said, “I knew you could do it” and to him it was like I had won. However, I always wanted to make my parents proud like all children do.
Now he said, “Go get ’em in the 100”, and that is what I intended to do. I heard “2nd call 100-meter dash final”, then “Final call 100-meter dash final.” Now the butterflies felt like they would fly right out of my mouth. It was time to get set in my starting blocks. The starter raised his arm pointing the gun to the light blue, cloudless sky.
“On your mark “, a pause which felt like eternity, “Get set,” Bang! I was out of the blocks as fast as my legs could go and I had two things in sight. One being the bright yellow tape I had to cross and the other being my parents waiting anxiously at the finish line.
I finished 1st. I did what I had to do, and kept my opponents behind me all the way. I could hardly believe I was able to beat some of the best sprinters in the conference. As soon as I broke the yellow tape, I ran to my father’s open arms. Well, I should say, I leaped right into them and almost knocked him over. (I think I took him by surprise). I can also picture the soft glowing smile my mother had on her face and the tears in her eyes as she watched my dad and me embracing. I can only imagine how it must have looked, a seventh grader leaping into the arms of her dad. At that moment I didn’t care what it looked like. I wanted a hug from my dad. My dad whom I hold so close to my heart. Yes, I did win a blue ribbon that said 1st place 100-meter dash, but I have no idea where that ribbon is, or if I even still have it. But as you can see, to this day, I remember that hug from my dad, leaping into his arms like I was two again. And I remember wanting to please my parents so that they would be proud of me. I doubt he remembers… or maybe he does, because it was special to him too. Regardless, he now knows how much it meant to me, and how on that beautiful sunny day, we reached out to each other to celebrate our love for one another.
My parents were at every athletic event I ever participated in, and even some I didn’t, because of a dislocated shoulder from 7th grade through college. With hugs and words of encouragement, there were always there cheering me on. Without those words and gestures I may not be the person I am today. But none stand out as much as that big, wonderful hug in seventh grade. I hope I am as supportive to my children as mom and dad were for me. Well, actually I know I will because I had a wonderful example.
Thanks for the memory Dad.