Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sports Talk: Storybook endings to track and field careers

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published May 22, 2013. 
The ending of Micah Smith’s high school career brought back memories of my own “storybook ending,” as I once called it. He not only won the title but his very last high school meet saw his best performance ever.
A lot of pressure can build up in that final meet after putting so much into your athletic career. The last thing you want is it to finish feeling like you fell short in your final performance.
From Danville Advocate Messenger
 While many people pushed me to focus on the 400, and I love-love-loved the competitive nature of the meet-ending 1600-meter relay, the 800 was what I loved most.
After running a great time at region—but not my personal best—I wanted nothing more than to finish out my CCHS track career at state—back then it was on U.K.’s fancy blue track—knowing I had run my best race ever.
God has an interesting way of working sometimes and he decided to play a little trick on me that particular day. In regular meets my dad or someone would always call out my first lap split so I knew whether I was on pace or not. At state I could simply look at the large finish line clock as I passed by on my first lap.
My heart sank to my gut when I saw that my time was about four or five seconds off on my first lap. What was worse is that I had been gunning for a fast first lap in order to better my chances at a P.R.
The fear of living with a less than satisfying final race outweighed my fear of dying or the pain my legs or lungs were feeling. I pushed harder through that second lap, in attempt to make up for the slow first lap.
I finished in fourth, a much higher finish than I’d been ranked going into the day but saw a time that was even slower than my regional time. Despite my place, I could not help but feeling disappointed, so I was rather confused by the excited greetings and congratulations I was receiving once I exited the track.
It turns out the display clock had been showing a time that was about five seconds off the real timer. Not only had my first lap actually been extremely fast, but my overall time was a personal best and the new school record. Had the clock incident not happened, I may not have run my second lap as well and finished with the time that I did.
I still remember that feeling of capturing the perfect race on my final day as a high school athlete. My excitement to know Micah had not only won his event but had the perfect day to end his career brought back those memories and feelings and makes me that much happier for his hard work and accomplishments.
Then there is Shelby Stringer, who has blown everyone from her coaches and fans to her competition away with her stellar performances this year. State was no exception with her 10’ vault and tying the state record. For Shelby, she has an entire season left to raise the bar that much higher—literally and figuratively!
From Danville Advocate Messenger
 But any experienced athlete in Shelby’s shoes knows there is nothing to be taken for granted and her achievements this year do not guarantee a cakewalk next year.
The thing about track and field is that you simply never know from season to season who is going to come into the mix of competition and just what kind of day you are going to have when it matters most. Unlike team sports, if you have a bad day, there is no one else for you to look to for picking up the slack.
I was overjoyed with another area title achieved last Friday when my cousin, Clint Hellyer, took the gold in the 300-meter hurdles. While I wanted nothing more than to see him accomplish this, I could not help but see the other side of this situation. This was Clint’s first year on Boyle County’s track team. 
From Danville Advocate Messenger
This means he was not only not in the mix of 300-hurdle competition last year, but he never was. No matter how well other athletes did in the past, they had no way of predicting Clint would be a state contender until this season arrived. There were guys gunning for that state title this year who have been hurdlers for years, yet Clint came out and captured it with one season under his belt.
I saw the same thing happen to friends and teammates back when I was running for Casey. The important thing is to relish the moment while it is I here and be proud of what you accomplished and take the time to live in this particular moment. Whether it’s your first season or last season, a state title or a personal record, celebrate.
As for Shelby’s final season as a CCHS vaulter, I am stoked to see the milestones in her future. Plus, I have seen her compete enough in all of her sports to know the dedicated competitor that she is. There is no doubt in my mind she is going to do everything in her power to seal back-to-back state titles—and claim the state record for herself.

No comments: