This past weekend, I was covering the track regional at a high school on the east side of town. It was hot, believe it or not, and the sun was relentlessly beating down on the athletes all day long.
One of the final events of the afternoon was the grueling 3200-meter run, the metric two-mile run. It’s a true test of endurance and will for even the best athletes, and on this Saturday afternoon, with the heat and blazing sun, it was even more challenging.
The girls went first and the race began without a hitch. Lap after lap, these incredible athletes pushed themselves and ran with great pride and purpose–despite the heat.
As the race wore on, however, one young woman lagged further and further behind. Runner after runner passed her by, until she found herself three laps behind much of the rest of the field.
As the other girls crossed the finish line, exhausted and beat from the conditions and the event itself, this girl had two more laps to complete before she could rest–800 meters more. Her pace was far short of the rest of her competitors, she struggled with each step, and her face reflected the tremendous effort and strain she was putting into the race.
Sweat drenched her brown hair and trickled from her brow, down her cheeks, eventually landing on the surface of the track. Her chest heaved, trying to bring in as much air as possible, and she repeatedly had to brush her eyes with her hand so the sweat would stay out of them.
She approached the finish line, and an official reached out his hand to her and pointed her toward the scorer’s table to the left of the track.
“You’re done, honey. Good job," the man said as she crossed the finish line.
“No,” she said, breathless and tired. “I’ve got one more lap.”
By now, the rest of the field for the girls 3200-meter stood along the edge of the track and cheered her on.
After several minutes, as she reached the home straightaway, she picked up her pace and sprinted for the finish line as if she was dashing for a spot in the state finals June 4. She wasn’t, of course, but she was racing herself, her limits, her will and she was determined to win.
Some of the same girls with whom she competed minutes before now ran along side her on the infield, encouraging her to finish strong. The fans in the bleachers rose to their feet and clapped, cheering her until the final stride was taken.
When she leaned into the finish line, like every good track athlete does, her time was nearly twice that of the winning time and several minutes behind her closest competitors. Still, each girl who started beside her that afternoon congratulated her, told her what a great job she did and each one was sincere and heartfelt.
This is what makes high school sports so special. These are the moments that make us feel proud of our young people–in an era when they’re often labeled as troublemakers, corrupt or spoiled.
This is why I spend a few hundred words each week encouraging you to experience games in your neighborhood. It's not only because I want you to see a good and competitive game, but also because I want you to be there to see something memorable; something that can only come from kids who, despite what we hear otherwise, are still innocent and pure and good-hearted.
So please, take a few hours this week and cheer these kids on, let them know they’re making their community proud.
Here’s a few suggestions for games this week.
- girls soccer v. Romulus; 7 p.m. May 23 at Dearborn High.
- baseball v. Bishop Foley; 4:30 p.m. May 24 at DC.
- softball v. Crestwood; 4 p.m. May 25 at Fordson.
- softball and baseball v. Annapolis; 4 p.m. May 24 at Edsel Ford.