Before I jump into the true topic of this post, a quick realization I just had. Lately many of the family stories I’ve been sharing in detail here have already been posted to Facebook in much more simplified form. Since the bulk of my regular readers are friends on Facebook, that means you’ve often had a sneak preview of the story about X or Y before I get around to putting a few hundred words about it up here. The rest of story, you might say.

Which instantly made me think of sitting in my grandfather’s or uncle’s pickup truck in a field or pasture in central Kansas while they ate their lunch and listened to Paul Harvey. If you listened to Paul Harvey at all as a kid, you remember one thing. “And now you know….the rest of the story…” Although I’m uncomfortable comparing myself to Paul Harvey for a number of reasons, saying that I’m sharing the rest of the story here did make me laugh a little.

Anyway, Saturday was the last cross country meet of the year, the big CYO city championship. She had a streak of four top 20s in four races going into Saturday’s race. I was a little concerned because she didn’t run last weekend since we were out-of-town and she had been fighting a nasty chest cold all week. I wasn’t sure she would be in top form for the biggest meet of the year. And, honestly, I was worried that with every one of the best teams competing, she might get knocked out of the top 20 for the first time this year.

Fortunately my worries were silly. She did just fine.

She’s never a great starter, but she broke out strong this week. We were probably 100 yards down from the start and she was in fourth place when the crush of 3rd/4th graders roared by us. We had friends scattered around the course who were texting us updates from different spots. She fell back a little, but we kept hearing that she was still in the top 10. She passed us right beyond the 2K mark and she was 8th, but looked to be struggling a little. The finish was directly behind us and we took off to claim a good spot before they came in.

We were probably 50 yards down from the finish. The winner, who is the youngest in a family that just dominates each of their age groups, came in right around 12:20. The second-place girl was another 20 seconds behind her. Then another 20 seconds before the third place girl. A few seconds later we saw a group of girls come over the rise together. First we saw the St. P’s 3rd grader who has just kicked ass all year, and is usually about 30 seconds ahead of C. Then, as the group resolved into individuals, there was C right behind her! I might have become psycho cross country dad as C passed us, shouting out encouragement as loudly as I could. There were three girls right on her ass, and again she appeared to me to be faltering a little.

I leaned out over the rail and watched them race toward the finish. It was a helpless feeling. I couldn’t encourage her, give her a boost of speed or strength, or do anything to keep the pack of three behind her from getting by. It was all on her. I kept waiting for one of her trailers to make a move, but they couldn’t do it. C held them off. She finished sixth! She was two seconds behind her schoolmate and two seconds in front of that group that tried to chase her down.

As soon as I saw her cross the finish line, I took off toward the holding pen. I heard S yell from behind me, “THIRTEEN TEN?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!” I stopped and looked back at her and said, “WHAT?!?!” I was so focused on the racing, I never looked at her time. I glanced back at the official clock, which by now was up to 13:30. She had just obliterated her personal best time by nearly 90 seconds! She was almost two minutes faster than her best time of last year! Homegirl put it all together and the perfect time.[1]

When we found her behind the finish line, she was kind of in a daze. I grabbed her and gave her a huge hug. I came damn close to saying, “Babe, you were fucking flying!” I thought it, that’s for sure. When I told her what place she finished in and how fast her time was, she got really happy. But she was more focused on finding her friends who were behind her and cheering them in.

Later another St. P’s family who was at the finish line pulled C aside and complimented her both on her run and how she reacted after she finished. They said she ran up to the St. P’s third grader, gave her a hug, and said, “K! We did it!” They told her how she really impressed them with how she was looking out for her teammate. I was even more proud of her, and happy that I had sunglasses on when they shared that story.

It turned out everyone was posting huge PR’s. It was an absolutely perfect day: sunny, dry, in the low 60s. A brisk wind, but one that was squarely behind the runners on the finishing stretch. This course is used for high school and college meets, so I don’t doubt it was measured correctly. Maybe it was just something in the air. Everyone we talked to said their kids dropped 30–60 seconds off their best times.

So it was a really good finish to a fine season. C ended up with three top ten finishes: a 5th, a 6th, and a 9th. She also had 14th and 16th place finishes. The best part about Saturday was a lot of the girls who beat her when she was 14th and 16th finished behind her. It’s one thing to improve your time. It’s another to improve more than your rivals do.

I think cross country fits her really well. She has a bit of a busy, unfocused mind. Sometimes she gets overwhelmed and emotional. I think running relaxes her. She doesn’t have to think about where to throw the ball, how many outs there are, or if a ball is going to land inbounds or not. She can just go.

I think we have enjoyed it even more than her. And not just because of her success. Cross country is a lot of fun because it brings the entire school together. We’ve made new friends through kickball and volleyball. But those teams are smaller and include, at most, two grades. At a cross country meet every grade from 3rd through 8th is represented. And all the parents go out and cheer for all the kids, whether they have a kid running in that age group or not.

It’s great for the kids, too. Our coaches really push the older kids to be vocal leaders. They design little games at practice that mix up kids by ages so that everyone gets to know everyone else. It’s really cool to see the 7th and 8th graders encourage the younger kids, or just to say hello to them at school. You can see the boost of confidence some of the younger kids get when an 8th grader walks by and tells them “good job” while saying their name. I enjoy the way the sports builds the feeling of community, both for the kids and the parents.

And then there was one fall sport left. L has just two weeks of soccer left. It’s going to be sooooo nice having just one night of practice this week.

  1. Her official time was 13:13.  ↩