“Smokin’ Boots!” A ritual chant for my 3200 meter relay team: It’s the last thing we say to one another before toeing the starting line of the track. The pieces were in place that day to break our schools record. One of the top teams in our state, we knew we were capable of earning that plaque that will hang in our gym for eternity.
My teammates and I have become close friends throughout the season. Each day we brave the intense heat of the afternoon to train for days like this. Pushing each other, we compete for the number one spot on the team, the highest honor for any runner. If one of us were to slack off, the others would be there to gut it through.
I believe in comradery.
Unlike any other event in track, a relay forces the runner to rely on the efforts of his teammates. To have one runner mess up one leg of the relay means no school record for us, hence the pre-race pump up and chant. The first runner toes the line next to other top teams in the state, a pat on the back is the last motion of confidence he will receive until the race ends. The gun shoots, the race is off. That plaque became more real as our leading leg takes the first position. My teammates and I scream from the center of the track words of encouragement, but out of nowhere he falls back, losing the number one spot. Our dreams seemed to fade as my fellow teammate and comrade stumbles across the finish line at a disappointing time. It was over, no school record today. Despite his poor showing, the team persists and we finish a mediocre fourth place. It was just not our day.
As we sit down disappointed, we find it in ourselves to congratulate our leading leg rather than ridicule him for his poor showing. What would be the point of throwing verbal abuse at him when he is already aware of his less than stellar performance? As teammates we have to be there to support, encourage, and motivate him to greatness next time. As comrades it’s our job to keep spirits high. It takes individual efforts for the whole to reach greatness. We know we will return to our school, brave the extreme weather, sweat, suffer, and persevere together to reach our ultimate goal. It was not our day…but our day will come.
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