I was determined to prove myself worthy.
“Runners, take your mark,” the referee shouted, lifting his gun. I took one final look at the finish line before kneeling down to face the black track pavement. This was it. This was the moment I had been waiting for.
My running spikes pushed firmly against the starting blocks as I leaned forward, shifting my body weight onto my hands. My mind flashed back to the journey that brought me here, from my first day in the locker room to the daily warm-up laps to the exhausting ride home after grueling practices every day.
I was a sophomore in high school, and it was my first time on the track team. I pushed my body to its limit at practice almost every day and tried my absolute best to tackle the hurdles. Hurdles look difficult, because they are. Two of the four captains did hurdles as well, which only increased the pressure to perform well in front of our coach. The coaches never announced which runners would participate in which event until after practice the day before a meet. Because of this, everyone on the team was constantly working their hardest to impress the coaches in hopes of achieving the honor of representing our school in these meets. As the season progressed, one of my good friends on the team, Linda, started showing noticeable improvement. Soon she was just as good as the two captains were. Ironically, I worked so hard that winter that I got a bad case of shin splints and as a result, did not go to any meets during the whole indoor season. I was disappointed.
When outdoor track season rolled along in the spring that year, my determination to compete in a meet outweighed the pain that my severe shin splints were still causing me. To ease the pain, I would ice and wrap my shins in the trainer’s room before practice. The coach even put me on a lighter workout on days when I was really hurting. I was determined to prove myself worthy.
After many practices filled with frustration and tears, the day before the first outdoor meet finally came. The coaches were going to announce our team’s representatives at the end of practice that day. I waited patiently as Coach Levinson listed off the different events and I watched the faces of my fellow teammates light up when he called their last names. The 3200-meter relay was always the first event, and the 100-meter hurdles followed. I heard Coach announce two surnames – one belonging to Christine, one of the captains (no surprise), and the other to my friend Linda! I quickly turned to Linda and silently congratulated her with a warm smile which she returned. I waited to hear Coach announce the next event, the 110-meter hurdles, but what came out of his mouth instead took me by surprise. “And Lintakoon!” I was finally chosen. Linda quickly delivered an excited smile to me. I was chosen over the other captain! I was chosen over the other hurdlers! I remembered everything I had gone through to get to where I was now.
The gun shot echoed. Like a cork popping from a bottle of champagne, all of my energy exploded through my legs to help me propel off the starting blocks and shoot down the straightaway. I counted down the ten hurdles in my head as my teammates cheered from the sidelines. Inching past a girl from the opposing team in the lane next to me, I heard Coach Levinson’s familiar voice shouting, “Lean forward!” There was a hint of excitement in his voice.
I furrowed my eyebrows and struggled to catch my breath after crossing the finish line. Several of my teammates jumped up and down congratulating me as I walked off the track. I had placed third in my first race, and was beaten by two girls from the other team. I had earned a point for my team, and I was faster than both Christine and Linda! I was shocked.
Coach Levinson approached me with a huge grin on his face and gave me a high five. He looked into my eyes and softly affirmed, “Good job.” His minimal encouragement was enough to boost my confidence and make me feel like the hero of the day.
I’ll always remember that race. The referee told me to take my mark so I did. I made mine.