April 20, 2014
We were the coolest bunch of ragtags I’ve ever been a part of. As we walked into the school this weekend, we met another team and struck up a conversation. A sentence containing the words “first track meet” was spoken. “Oh wow!,” I heard, “Your first track meet this season?” “Uh, no . . . our first track meet. Ever.” Silence.
Yes, our first track meet ever. Somehow we haven’t managed to pull off the logistics necessary for one yet. But thanks to the hard work of the co-coach we no longer have in country, it just happened. From the start, it was clear that we would have stories to tell, with energy belying the fact that we had all had to leave school at 5:00 the morning of the meet in order to catch a flight that would get us there in time for opening events. Mind you, by the time after-dinner socializing had begun, that energy was long gone: they were a pitiful bunch, really—begging to be allowed to go to bed while the rest of the teens enjoyed games and a live band . . . a band with which I would never have the guts to pump up and spontaneously harmonize to “I’m gonna be” ;-)
But I digress. What I was going to tell you about was the first thing that made my day—a day that was made a thousand times over by the end of it. First off, I should explain that our school has not managed to brave the world of hurdles. For one, I am clueless as to the coaching of them. For two, we have not had the funding to purchase. For three . . . oh wait, I forgot: there are only two reasons I can think of at this point in my travel/running weary brain.
So the first event of the weekend was hurdles. Once all were set up, one girl could contain her curiosity no longer; she went over and began experimenting with them. She then looked over at the coach next to her. “I could so do that! she exclaimed. He shrugged, “Why don’t you ask if you can?” I was walking over from the other end of the field when she came running to me with her request. I didn’t stop to think beyond running myself over to the administrating coach to ask. He called over to stop the guys who were in the process of taking out an extra lane of hurdles. Those extra hurdles were no longer extra. As you might suspect, she did well. Really well. She also went on to medal in several events. Not bad for a first-timer, eh?
Continuing the pinch-hitting trend, we had a relay team decide that they liked doing the 4 x 100 well enough: why not add join the teams doing the 4 x 200 too? Why not get a 3rd place medal while you’re at it? We had one similar highlight after another over the two days of events.
But I think what struck me the most—and what I applauded them for in our pre-boarding airport recap meeting—was the “teamness” of them. I kept watching the ways they cared for each other: running to cheer on their teammates; carrying shed jackets and shoes; bringing waters and snacks; supporting limping, or dog-tires competitors . . . in short, showing real care. These kids don’t just claim to be friends: their friendship has hands. And feet. Fast feet :-)
Incidentally, we also managed to end the weekend with one war wound. A war wound that occurred on the bus ride from the finished meet to the airport. One young man discovered that he had crushed the lens of one side of his glasses, leaving them in his pocket during the races. Intrigued by the idea of potentially having lens-less frames to, I suppose, look cool in, he proceeded to push on the other lens with his fingers. Shortly, we were taping up a bloodied finger, which we took turns monitoring for the rest of the journey home.