Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Final Four

By Sahvannah Rodriguez, age 17, California


“First call for the girls’ one-mile! All one-mile racers are to be warming up on the field!” shouted the announcer through the PA system. It was the final race before I was off to college, and these were the words that would inaugurate my final competition. I scrambled to gather my distance spikes and hurried down to the track. My heart began racing, and my breaths became staggered. This wasn’t a rare case, though. Getting nervous before a race was my forte, but this race seemed to be extra nerve-wracking. I felt as though all the previous races I ran led up to these last four laps. The pressure was on.

As I got onto the field, I remembered that the other two girls’ one-mile racers from my school were out on a trip and would not be racing today. Great, I sarcastically thought to myself. Just what I needed to add to my already filled plate of pre-race nerves. Without thinking about it, I immediately sat down on the grass and began stretching. I wasn’t accustomed to preparing for a race without my teammates constantly calming my nerves. At this thought, I decided I should begin my drills; moving around usually did a pretty good job at getting my mind off things. “Second call for the girls’ one-mile! All one-mile racers are to approach the starting line!” There was that dreadful announcement again, I thought to myself.

I was never really the type to talk to other racers outside of my team, but then again I was also never really the type to race alone, so I guess there’s a first time for everything. “Hey, you’re racing the one-mile, too?” I asked a girl from a rival team.

She turned around, took a quick glance at my jersey, and replied with an eye-roll and sassy “Duuuuhh.”

Astonished at her sour attitude and rude response, I hoped for a turnaround in the conversation and replied with a smile and a question: “Oh, yeah, of course you are. Silly me. What’s your name?”

“Abby, but don’t you have teammates to bug? I mean, goodness, it’s not like you’re racing alone or anything.”

I felt my heart drop a few levels, and my smile quickly faded. “Well, yes, actually I am, but anyway, good luck on the mile. See you on the track.”

She then let out a loud and obnoxious laugh, and before I could turn to walk away, she satirically replied, “Wow, racing all alone? Good luck to you, too, then because we both know you’ll need it.” At that remark, she let out a cackle and turned to walk away.

Wow, I thought to myself. I always knew rivalries were a big deal, but never did I imagine other runners could be this rude. I was only nervous before, but now I also felt a bit discouraged. My confidence had never been attacked this brutally before. Thoughts of negativity and doubt swam around in my head, but the most obvious thought I could muster strongly questioned my resoluteness. Was this really something I could do?

Interrupting my thoughts, I heard a booming “Last call for the girls’ one-mile! All runners on the starting line!” Low on faith and high on doubt, I quickly recited a prayer, sealed it with the sign of the cross, and headed for the starting line. My mind told me this was the end, but deep down, I knew this was only the beginning.

With the fire of a gun, we were off! Starting the first lap, my worries soon faded away, and I was filled with enough energy to fuel a marathon run! Approaching the first one-hundred mark on the track hit me with a surge of adrenaline, and I was filled with excitement for what this race had in store for me! In the near distance, I spotted the long and bouncy waves belonging to Abby. I inevitably pushed harder and faster to reach and eventually pass her. The pack of runners I propelled to keep up with ran hard through the conclusion of the first lap. Feelings of fatigue were nowhere in sight, and it was the beginning of something great.

Slowly but surely the runners became increasingly dispersed, and to my surprise, I found myself in the lead. I was going strong, and I could hear the footsteps of the runners behind me diminishing as I continued to distance myself. At this point, I was so far ahead that I was left to the familiar sound of my hard breaths and feet rhythmically slamming against the track. Reaching the near end of the second lap, I felt my feet getting heavy. I could hear a meek voice inside of me proposing the idea of surrendering, but I quickly pushed the thought away and strode through the end of the second lap.

What have you gotten yourself into? I thought to myself as I continued to my third lap. I was so sure I could do this, but I didn’t know where I would gather the energy from. As it became harder to breathe and my arms became harder to pump, I could feel the tears forming on the outskirts of my eyes. I suddenly felt the weight of the world on my back. My steps became smaller and took a sense of laziness. Through the loud breaths and pounding of footsteps, I made out the sound Abby’s footsteps—I knew it was her. Her smooth breaths and long, confident strides made their way closer and closer to me until, finally, she surpassed me. At the sight of her long ponytail bouncing in front of me, the thought of giving up roared much louder in my head, only this time it was much harder to push away.

C’mon, just drop out now! I thought to myself as I got closer to the end of the third lap. You don’t need this pain. Your shins have been throbbing for weeks; your coach will understand when you tell him you can’t. At this thought, I was quickly angered. I was disappointed in myself for letting these thoughts become so profound in my head. With all this internal confusion, I hadn’t realized that the third lap had come to an end, and it was, by far, the hardest one.

Striding onto my fourth and final lap, I took a deep breath and prepared for what was up ahead, the final sprint. You didn’t come all this way to give up now, I internally argued.

Through the midst of all the pain and doubt, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my best friend and heard him yell at the top of his lungs, “You can do this! Widen your stride, control your breathing, and get back up there! You’re almost finished!”

My brain immediately soaked up these words and used them to fuel my confidence. He’s right, I thought to myself. Who better to finish this right now than me? I can do this!

My entire body then jolted forward. I had gained an inexplicable amount of energy from an unknown source. I had two-hundred more meters to go, and I was almost at my top speed. As I rounded the lap for my last one-hundred meters, I again felt my heart begin racing and my breaths become staggered—only this time it wasn’t because I was nervous but instead anxiously excited.

As I sped forward, I caught up to Abby again and sprinted with her for a few steps until I finally passed her. The crowd cheered, and the PA system roared above. I knew this was it. It was do-or-die. I put one-hundred and ten percent into this last sprint until I ultimately darted past the finish line. As I scrambled to catch my breath, my teammates showered me with “good jobs,” and my coach sealed the deal with a congratulatory high five. I caught sight of Abby through the midst of the chaos and walked up to deliver a friendly “Congrats,” but as soon as she saw me approaching, she gave the same eye-roll and spun around to face all her teammates.

This is it, I thought on the bus ride home, This is the end. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t over. Although it challenged my every move, I knew these final four laps would be the greatest I had ever run. Off to college and uncertain about the future, I felt that strange yet familiar feeling—the feeling that this was only the beginning of something great.

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