IN THE GAME

Perfectly manicured grass.  Roars from the crowd.  Inspiring performances.

No I wasn’t at the CWS last night.  Chose instead to head over to Lincoln North Star.  Had the pleasure of meeting Matt Musil for the first time.  And big tips to Brian Wandzilak on setting up the all comers meet.  Well timed for my young charges Sam and Jackson.

I asked Brian if it was ok for me to holler.  Asked permission to be on the infield.  To give my boys their splits, starting at 100 meters, just the way we train.  Their numbers scribbled on the dog eared sheets of their training cycle.  Numbers from the last 6 sessions bolstering enough confidence to go for lifetime personal bests.  Two weeks prior to AAU Regionals in Minnesota, I reminded them that we were “all business.”

There were some raised eyebrows among those gathered.  Hearing whispers of personal bests and such seriousness exhibited by lads only 9 and 12.  These young boys that I am bringing along.  Coach Musil asked what their goals were.  I told him Jackson was to run his 800 in 2:56, a one second personal best.  I told him that Sam was to run 10:45, 9 seconds from his personal best set at AAU  Nationals last year.

Jackson’s gun went first.  Showed him some Hard Evidence of his  fitness, encouraged him to run in control, just like we do in practice.  Forty fours.  Every 200 meters.  Just what we have been training for.  He passed the bell at :86, Spot On.  His second quarter in :88, 2:54.8 a new personal best by 3 seconds!

Coach arranged some early pace makers for Sam but he was to be on his own for the final, and supposedly most difficult 600 meters of the race.  Ah, but we Love those last 600!  And the final 200?  That’s what I’m talking about!  The crack of the pistol and I was running towards midfield to set up my position to call splits.  I looked around and was a little shocked to see no one!  I looked back at the start line thinking maybe there was a call back.  What is going on?!?!

Looked again and saw Sam and his escort dawdling.  Five seconds behind schedule at the first 200 meters, Cripes!  Told him he was going to have to pick those back up over the next 3 or 4 laps, don’t try and get them all at once.  By the mile he had regained it and hit the prescribed mark of 5:45.  Two more laps with hired gun simulating an opponent.  And then he was on his own.  As it should be for my purposes.  Only then could I see what his Stuff is Really made of.  -This was my first time to see either of the boys race-  Again, the fastest 600 of the evening closing with the fastest 200 of the race.

I took a deep breath.  Smelling the grass clippings.  Looking at the evening sky  from inside the oval.  Kids laughing.  Noise of other summer games in the background.  All my senses heightened by the essence of what had just happened.  Tucked my stopwatch, grabbed my clipboard, and felt honored and privileged to still be In The Game.