I didn’t realize that Mom still has the newspaper clipping, not until she pulled the yellowed print from her purse this past weekend. For me, that article had been a small moment of recognition for me, my picture in the Springfield Journal Register sports section and my name mentioned. A few days after the article appeared, our neighbor brought a copy of the picture to me, a broad smile on his face. He worked at the newspaper and knew that I would want that picture. It was 1979, my senior year, and our high school track team was one of the best in the state of Illinois. Our success started our freshman year and had continued to our senior year. We were expected to win the Illinois State track meet as a team.. and we did. As the article reported, our team had one of the best sprinters in the state, but we also had some of the best middle distance runners in the state. I was one of them, with the school record time of 1:56 in the 800 meters and 8:36 as anchor of the 3200 meter relay some of my accomplishments. My senior year, I did not lose a single 800 meters race until the sectional track meet.
I think it’s OK that I am still proud of those accomplishments. Running was a huge thing for me then and has carried over into my love for cycling now. Mom beamed as she handed me the faded clipping, still as proud as I am.. maybe more. “I thought you would be glad to have this” she said as I held the clipping out in front of me, the memory of the moment that picture was taken still fresh in my mind. I smiled as I remembered. I hugged my Mom, told her how happy I was that she had brought it to me.
My parents did not have much opportunity to see me compete. They were too busy making sure that our family had food on the table and a roof over our heads. Dad worked like a dog, Mom taught piano lessons and managed the household affairs. I know how much they wanted to be there, especially since running was the sport where I excelled. When I think about that, I realize how blessed I have been to be able to watch both of my children compete. There is a special pride a parent takes from watching their child play a sport or perform.
One of the few times that Dad had opportunity to watch me run was the night that our team ran against a school that had a dirt track, meaning that the running shoes each runner wore were fitted with longer spikes that normal. That meet, while running the 800 meters, a two lap race, a runner from the other team stomped on my left foot during the first lap. I finished and won the race with a bloodied foot, a large gash on the top of my foot.
There were other times. That year at the Pana Open, a large invitational track meet, was one of those times. The day had been a good one, a day of laughter as well as tough competition. Andy Lunt, a hurdler on our team, had given us all a laugh by accidentally sitting in a large pile of dog poop while doing the hurdler stretch. He had to run his race in borrowed shorts, his shorts were crusted with a large smelly brown stain. I had done well, winning the 800 meters and placing second in the 1500 meters that day. By the end of the meet, our team was in second place by a fraction of points. I had yet to finish my last two jumps of the triple jump, the only event left to be finished for the meet. If I placed third or better, our team would win the meet. I had to take those last two jumps with everyone watching and scratched on the first jump. The final jump was a good one and an inch longer than the third place jump. My last jump won the meet for our team. Dad had arrived late.. and he got to see that happen.
High school track truly was a team sport, funny as that may sound. I think I remember the comraderie as much or more than the actual individual competition. Our team was good not only because we had individuals who were outstanding athletes, but we also had some of the best relay teams in the state. Relays were always the highlight of each meet, the events that everyone watched and cheered for. When I ran a relay, my team mates would position themselves at the last curve, yelling loudly for me as I kicked to the finish line. I did the same as they ran, sharing the victory as my team mates ran.
I’m glad Mom brought that article for me to enjoy!