An Athlete\'s Journal: One Last Race

The state championships this past weekend were a bittersweet ending to my high school career. I ran both the 1600m and 3200m runs, as I was able to qualify in both. I debated only running the 3200, but not running the 1600 almost seemed like a waste of a spot. A spot someone else would have graciously taken. I didn't want to seem selfish. And my team needed the points. We wanted to place as high as possible. And with Grayson only sending four to the state meet, we needed to squeeze as much as we could out of what we had.

And I wanted to run the 1600 one more time. To feel the burn that only that race can create. It's amazing how masochistic we really are—scary even. To want to hurt, to punish our bodies as much as we can. But it's the only time you really feel alive.

The room they set you in before your races could make you go crazy. It was small, with a rubber floor, and signs on the wall used to motivate athletes. I'd say it was probably a weight room converted for the purpose of making the athletes about to run as nervous as possible. You're stuck in there with your competitors and nobody says much of anything. They put on their spikes, do some drills, and stretch out with the occasional good luck or head nod. The tension could be easily cut with a dull knife.

Despite any nervousness, the 1600 turned out to be a pretty good race personally. The first two laps kept the pack pretty tight. I remember hearing somebody yell, "Let's not keep this tactical. RUN!" I thought that was pretty funny at the time. I believe we came through 800 in about 2:14ish, and then the race really began. The X boys took off and kept pulling away, never looking back again. I think Davis' last half was 2:05ish. I was amazed.

I tried to hold on to Taylor from Madisonville the rest of the race. He won our region the week before with a great kick and I wanted to get in a battle with him—it always is nice to have someone beside you the last lap. I knew it would be good. Somewhere during all of this Cullen Kuntz came flying by us as he does. This guy has a great kick during races. He's going to be very good in the coming years. I pulled up on Taylor's shoulder the last lap but didn't have enough to hang with him. Upon seeing I placed sixth, I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't even qualified last year in the 1600 and was ranked eighth going into the race with a new PR by six seconds set at region. I was just happy to be there. But to be sixth in the state was a huge personal accomplishment. And I had beaten some of the runners that had beaten me most of the year. I knew myself and Dunaway from Daviess had been battling each other since freshmen year and this was the first time I'd beaten him since probably sophomore year. I was content.

It's always hard to double in events like region or state. The races go by so quickly on the second day with only one heat of everything. It'd be nice if they could split the 1600 and 3200 on different days. But there aren't many who try this double-- and they're more intelligent people for it. I think maybe three of us attempted it this weekend, and I believe we all felt it afterwards.

So after my race, I just tried to lie down, get a good stretch and relax. I usually drink a little Gatorade and listen to some music to help get the heart rate down. After this particular race, my stomach felt horrible. I even tried to get something up in the restroom with no luck. This seemed a pretty common occurrence among runners, as other coaches and parents said they had athletes trying the same thing. It was a first for me so I'm not sure.

As I sat in the check-in room lacing up my spikes I thought, "This is going to be my last race in high school. All that work for the next ten minutes." It was a humbling moment. I went around and shook the hands of some of the guys I'd been racing for years and showed them my gratitude for all the competitions. Guys like Jenkins, Marchi, and Dickinson who I've been with in races so many times and especially Eaton , whom I've been in the same races with so many times considering our close proximity ( and with the same outcomes every time). I'll miss those guys and the battles we've had.

The race began, and it was fast. The first lap was around 69-70. 4:40 pace, which was too fast for most of us, but its state. You want to be with the pack. And we all tried to hang on to that lead pack—Eaton, McClain, and Smith for as long as possible. The 800 was around 2:21. Still pretty fast but the field was stringing out. On the home stretch, I'd try to tuck in behind someone as I can draft well being as small as I am.

The third lap was hit in around 3:35 so the pace was beginning to settle and still we were becoming more strung out. We hit the mile in 4:50. I was in a group with Bowens and Rice while Marchi wasn't far ahead and Jenkins up ahead of him. At this point, I was cursing myself for running the mile earlier. Although, some may find it silly, I was grateful to have the officials handing out water. I was getting cottonmouth badly at one point in the race and the water really helped. Trying to grab it as you ran by was a task though. I should really work on that in practice. The next few laps are a blur. I can never remember much after the mile. I know myself and Rice went back and forth quite a bit. Bowens ran amazingly well, running a PR I think, in finishing 6th. Going into the next to last lap I looked around the track counting those in front of me. I wanted to medal and score some points for my team, and I knew it was going to be close. On the last lap, Rice had a little more than I did but we were running down Marchi. I was on his shoulder coming into the final turn and I knew he stood between me and last scoring position as Murner had blown by our pack earlier in the race, running a smarter race. So as I turned the corner for the last time, I knew my kick was better than Antonio's. All that previous history we had came to some use. This confidence carried me across the line in 8th place, although I was doubtful. I asked others what place I came in and received mixed answers. "9th!" "No, 8th!" So when the official told me I came in 8th, I was extremely happy. Not only had I placed, but I'd broken ten minutes for only the second time in my track career.

I made it to the podium in both of my respective events, and I was content. Last year, I came in tenth in the 3200 in 10:20 something and didn't even qualify for the 1600, so this year was a great improvement. It was a great way to end high school running, although I'll miss it. That night I thought about how I wasn't ready for it to be over. How I know I could go faster, or I could of trained better here or there. But that's the just the way things go. I'll still run, no matter what. It's a part of me. I say it always will be more than likely. A way of life even. Jenkins asked me after the 2 mile if I was taking any time off. At first I said "Yea, probably." Then I thought about it, "No probably not. I'm going to run a long run tomorrow."

I'll miss everybody that I ever came in contact with through my running. If you ever need anything, just ask. But I'm not completely gone, more than likely. You may see me coaching in a few years. Just hope your kids aren't running against mine.