Chapter 16 ~ Coach Kappa Adds Pressure to Lisa

Love To Run

Chapter 16 ~ Coach Kappa Adds Pressure to Lisa

All members of the Jaguars varsity were going to states even though only eight would run. The Jaguars were on the team bus at seven a.m. States were held at the Governor Clara Geyser State Park an hour and a half away. The championship race was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Coach Kappa wanted the team to arrive with plenty of time to warm up before the race and talk strategy.

Lisa sat with Marie across the aisle from Mia and Leah. Five miles from the state park, Lisa heard her text ringtone. She pulled it out of her backpack. A text from Nicole.

Good Luck Lisa! I dreamed you ran a great race. Text as soon as you can.

Lisa texted back:
☺ ☺

The bus arrived at 9:05 a.m. The parking lot was already filling with school busses and cars. The driver parked the bus near the back edge of the parking lot. Coach Kappa stood up and spoke to the runners.

“Remember, you are the champions. You will be the champions until someone beats you. Do not let anyone intimidate you. If anyone trash talks, ignore it. We’re the champs, we’ve been here before. We know how champions act. Did you see the dam we crossed on the way here?”

The runners nodded.

Coach Kappa said, “The dam is an important part of the race. You’re going to cross the dam and once across the course leaves the main road and veers to the left. Pay attention, it comes fast right after you cross the dam. You’ll run the perimeter of the reservoir before heading toward Falcon’s Hill. Falcon’s Hill looks a lot like Mason’s Hill. I think it’s about twenty yards longer and maybe a degree steeper. Use the hill to your advantage. It can make or break runners in an important race. Once at you get to the bottom of Falcon’s Hill, the course goes for about a mile on a country road through rolling country terrain before returning to the large recreational area below the dam. I am going to have Jane and Debra standing one hundred yards before you begin to enter the recreational area. When you see them, you’ll know that a fifty yard downhill into the recreational area below the dam is coming up. Pick it up, don’t wait. Once your at the bottom of the dam, the course veers sharply left onto the large grassy area. At that point it’s a 300 meter sprint to the finish line. Any questions?”

Mia raised her hand, “Coach, what if we don’t see Jane or Debra?”

Coach Kappa laughed, “Don’t worry, they’ll be calling out your name loud enough to scare the birds out of the trees.”

Coach Kappa said, “One more point, I need to mention about the dam. recall last week when the Stinson runners blocked Lisa on the path through the woods?”

Lisa answered, “I do, Coach.” The girls all laughed.

“They’ll probably do the same here,” Coach Kappa said. “If we’re to win states you’ll have to beat the Stinson runners to the dam. Their strategy will be to sprint out with their runners. The six through ten runners will try to block the dam so the faster runners can get a big lead on the field. They qualified as many runners as we did. We were fortunate to edge them out in regionals. I know it’s unfair and I spoke to the state committee during the week. They told me if your team doesn’t like it tell them to get to the dam first. That’s what we’ll have to do. If any of you get to the dam first. I don’t want any blocking, run your race, and concentrate on finishing as high as you can. Got it?”

The team responded together, “Got it Coach.”

Twenty minutes later, the numbers were randomly selected and posted for the three-hundred runners who qualified from across the state. Lisa tried to jump up over the tall runners in front of her who were looking for their names and the number posted next to them. Being as small as she was, she was one of the last runners to find her name. Instinctively, she started looking at the numbers at the backend, beginning with three-hundred. When she reached one hundred-fifty, a little smile crossed her face, she’d be in the front half of the pack. Still she hadn’t seen her name. It was Mia Hale who patted her on the back, “Lisa, you pulled number four. The rest of us are three rows back. You got to go out strong. You can win this thing if I don’t break through.”

Lisa felt her heart thumping like a huge bass drum. She didn’t look at Mia. Instead she looked at her shoes, nodded and went to the registration table to get her number.

Moments later Coach Kappa called the team together one last time before the race. She said, “We got the draw we got. Focus on the race, not the draw. Mia and Marie are back a bit. Lisa, you’re going to have to run the race of your life if we’re to have a chance at five state championships in a row.” She paused for a moment, “We know the Stinson strategy. I don’t think it will change since the regionals. They’ll probably try to get to the dam first and block other runners from passing while their best runners build a big lead. We’re running two races. The first race is to get to the dam ahead of the Stinson runners. The second race is from the dam to the finish line. It’s the last race of the season. Don’t hold back. Give it all you got. Okay, let’s go!”


Today’s Quote by poet Allen Tate

I have felt darkness lead me by the hand
Over the hill to greet the singing dawn….

Allen Tate

Chapter 15 ~ Lisa Feels Pressure to Do Well

Love to Run

Chapter 15 ~ Lisa Feels Pressure to Do Well

As soon as Lisa boarded, the bus, she took out her iPhone. She planned to text Nicole, then her parents. She started typing in her text, when Coach Kappa stood up in the front of the bus.

“Listen up. Congratulations on winning the regionals. It was a good win, but it was close, too close. We beat Stinson by four points. A win is a win. We’ll have to do better if we’re going to repeat at states. Rest up tonight and tomorrow. We’re going to work hard Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Then, we’ll taper down on Thursday and a rest day Friday. I know you’ll run hard, you always do and I’m proud of you. But, this time, you’ll have to run smart. Lisa got boxed in by the Stinson runners.”

“It wasn’t fair, Coach,” said Marie.

“It’s all part of racing strategy, I agree it wasn’t fair to do it on purpose, but they got away with it. We don’t run like that and we never will. The thing to remember, when things like that happen, be smart, don’t foul, don’t get disqualified and figure out, like Lisa did, how to outsmart them. Thank you for giving it you’ve got. I’m proud of you.”

Coach Kappa sat down in the seat behind the bus driver. The bus driver closed the bus door, and asked for a show of hands of who was buckled. All the girls raised their hands. A moment later, the bus was headed back to Nickerson.

Lisa was still holding her iPhone. She completed her text message to Nicole.

Coach Kappa’s pushing hard for states. We barely won the regionals. I got boxed in by runners from Stinson. Coach protested – the judges didn’t do anything. I finished fourth. I could have finished second to Mia if I didn’t get boxed in.

Lisa waited for Nicole’s response. It wasn’t long.

Same thing happened to me Lisa the first time I ran regionals. Glad you kept your cool. It’s the only way. Here’s hoping you get a low number at states. Go out fast. How many Jaguars qualified?

Lisa texted.

10 of 15. We got our work cut for us if we’re to win.

Lisa watched the bubbles in the lower corner.

It’s only the first 5 team members that count. I’m picking you to finish in the top three at states.

Lisa felt her heart sounded like a heavy bass beat that wouldn’t quit pounding. Uh oh, she thought stress time. I have to be the third best runner at states to make Nicole proud. I’ve got to run better than I did today. I’ve got to prove to Nicole I can do it.

She text Nicole back.

Will do.

Lisa then texted her mom and dad. They both texted back congratulations and said they’d pick her up at the high school and go out for pizza. When Lisa and her parents came home, the first thing she did was to place the number 3 in the blue and gold colors of the Jaguars on the refrigerator door, inside the refrigerator, on the ceiling above her bed, on the front and back to the door of her room, and even on the bathroom mirror.

The following Monday, Coach Kappa knew her runners were ready. The training schedule this week wasn’t about getting them in better physical shape, it was preparing them mentally and building their confidence. Monday’s workout was an easy five mile run. Coach gave them the pace she wanted them to maintain. She called out the times every half mile making sure the runners kept it at an easy pace. When the runners returned to the Nickerson High School athletic fields, Coach Kappa had them run six one-hundred meters strides. On Tuesday, Coach Kappa had the runners warm up with an easy two mile run followed by running the Nickerson course at race pace. Mia, Marie, and Lisa were bunched together at the finish in that order. On Wednesday, it was an easy five mile day. And, Friday was the off day.

Late Friday afternoon, Lisa and her dad were sitting in the living room. Her mom was making dinner. Her dad said, “How are you feeling Lisa? Are you ready for tomorrow?”

“Okay, I guess,” said Lisa looking at her iPad.

“You’re really focused. Wherever you finish, it’s okay. Mom and I know you’ll give it your best. That’s all anybody can do,” Lisa’s dad rubbed her shoulder.

Lisa pointed to the block three hanging with scotch tape from the bottom of a framed photo on the wall of Nicole and she standing near the edge of northern rim to the Grand Canyon. It was taken on the family vacation two years ago. She said, “That’s my goal, dad.”

“It’s a good goal. Remember, it’s only a goal. You might exceed it. You might not reach it. Whatever the outcome, you’ll feel good if you knew you gave it your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.”

“Thanks, Dad,” said Lisa. Then she thought, Nicole expects me to be number three in the states.

Lisa and her dad heard her mom call, “Dinner’s on. Coach Kappa’s special menu for our runner.”

Lisa and her dad walked to the dining room, Lisa’s dad patted Lisa on the back, “It’s a race. You’ve trained hard. Give it your best. Nicole will be proud of you no matter where you finish.”

Lisa thought, only if I finish third.

Today’s Quote on Suffering by Gibran

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~ Khalil Gibran

First Love ~ Poem by John Clare

First Love

by John Clare

I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet.
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.

My face turned pale, a deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked what could I ail
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away.
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.

I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start.
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice
Is love’s bed always snow
She seemed to hear my silent voice
Not love appeals to know.

I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling place
And can return no more.

“Don’t Hold Back” Chapter 14

Love to Run

Chapter 14 ~ Don’t Hold Back

The regional cross-country race was held this year at Westover a one hour ride from Claymont. Lisa sat with Mia across from Marie and Leah on the bus ride. They spoke of their race strategy, the talked about their teachers, and they talked about the Stinson runners.

When they arrived at the Westover course, it was a typical November day, cold, the temperature was forty-one degrees with a wind chill of twenty-five degrees caused by the brisk breeze out of the Northwest. The runners all wore their blue and gold sweatsuits. When Lisa stepped off the bus, she looked around, the leaves were all off the trees, and there were at least six teams warming up. The Stinson team was stretching and their coach looked over toward the Jaguars and said something to her team. The Stinson team stopped stretching and stood and watched the Jaguars walk across the parking lot to a large field where the race was scheduled to start. Lisa felt the cold wind, gave an involuntary shiver, and pulled her hood over her head.

Once on the field, the Jaguars began their warmup routine. Coach Kappa walked among the runners. She was making sure they stretched properly. She was taking no chances any of the Jaguars would pull a hamstring or quad that might keep them out of the states. The runners’ position for the regionals was determined by lottery. The start for regionals was different than the start for the League championship. All the runners were placed in corral. There were 20 runners across each line in the corral. Lisa drew number 114. That meant she’d be in the sixth row. None of her Jaguar teammates drew a starting place in the first four rows.

Two minutes before the starter called the runners to enter the corral, Coach Kappa called the team together. Coach Kappa said, “Listen up, we didn’t get the draw we wanted. We got what we got and you’ll all do great. Watch out at the start. Regardless of the cautions from the starter, there will be pushing and shoving. Don’t you do it. Someone shoves you, let your feet do the talking when you beat them to the finish line. We have two goals today. One, we want to win the regionals. And, two, I want you all to qualify for states. Don’t hold back. You have two races left. Lisa, can I share your mantra with the team?”
Lisa nodded yes.

Coach Kappa said, “Thank you. Lisa told me this is the mantra she says to herself during each race, use it today, “Give it all you’ve got.” Let’s go team.”

The Jaguar girls cheered and headed for the corral to line up. Once the starter sounded the horn to begin the race it course took the runners across a wide field to a road in the park, it continued along the road for a hundred yards before entering a wooded area. The path through the wooded area was wide enough for four people. If you didn’t get to the woods early, a runner could be blocked out by the crowd. Lisa stood next to runne rs from Claymont and Edgewater. She saw four Stinson runners in the first three rows. Lisa closed her eyes for a moment to get focused. She concentrated on sprinting the first six hundred yards. She was ready for the race.

The starter’s air horn went off, the runners looked like a swarm of birds flying out of the corral and sprinting across the field to the road. There was bumping, shoving, and a few elbows tossed here and there. Lisa caught an elbow on her arm, it hurt for a moment, but she kept her focus on breaking through the large pack. Fortunately, no one was knocked down at the start.

Fifty yards from the tree line Lisa spotted Mia and Marie leading the pack. Lisa was twenty yards behind the leaders. Fifteen runners separated her from Mia and Marie. She passed five runners before she entered the woods. When she entered the woods, she lost sight of Mia and Marie who separated themselves from the pack. A group of four Stinson runners were in front of her, running four abreast blocking blocking any chance Lisa had to pass and gain ground on Mia and Marie.

“Open up, I want to pass,” Lisa hollered to the Stinson runners.

The Stinson runners acted as if they didn’t hear her. Lisa hollered again. Again, the Stinson runners ignored her. Lisa settled into a pace three steps behind the Stinson runners hoping she might get a chance to break through. She remember that Nicole told her about a time when the same thing happened to her. She said if it ever happened, don’t lose control, be patient, they’ll slip up. Be ready to scoot through fast before they react. Lisa remembered Nicole’s advice and keeping her cool and waiting for her chance.

She hoped it would come soon.

Nicole saw one of the runners look over her should and check on her. The Stinson runner turned back and said something to the other Stinson runners. Lisa quietly moved closer. She saw a turn to the left coming up. She thought this might be her chance. The Stinson runner on the far right, dropped back a half of a stride as they entered the turn leaving a small opening. Lisa sprinted into the small opening between the two Stinson runners, passing them before they could react. When the Stinson runners reacted and tried to catch her, it was too late. Their efforts were in vain.

Lisa knew she had to make up time. The Stinson runners caused her to throw out her race strategy. She picked up her pace, running faster than she ever had during the last mile and a quarter of her previous races. At the two mile mark she still didn’t see Mia or Marie. Lisa kept chanting to herself, ‘Give it all you’ve got. Give it all you’ve got. Come on, you can do this. Give it all you’ve got. When she was within the final six hundred yards,

She spotted Mia and Marie fifty yards ahead. There were three other runners trailing them. She heard Coach Kappa holler, “Come on Lisa sprint. Sprint. Push it Lisa. You can catch them.”

Lisa closed her eyes for a brief second and willed her legs to give more. She pumped her arms and lengthened her stride. at the quarter mile mark she passed a runner from Westlake. With two-twenty yards she caught the number one Stinson runner. They matched stride for stride.

The Stinson runner glanced to her left at Lisa and said, “You’ll never beat me, shrimp.”
The Stinson runner pulled a half stride ahead. Lisa said to herself, ‘Don’t hold anything back. Lay it on the line. Give it all you’ve got. You’ve got this.”

She caught the Stinson runner with fifty yards to go. The crowd at the finish line was screaming. It sounded like a huge roar to Lisa. She had no idea who they were cheering. In a sudden burst, Lisa edged a half stride ahead of the Stinson runner crossing the finish line and collapsing into into the waiting arms of Mia and Marie who held her up.

“You finished fourth Lisa. Fourth! Can you believe it? You beat the number one Stinson runner,” Mia said as she and Marie walked Lisa until Lisa’s regained her strength. The girls went back and waited near the finish line for the next two Jaguars to cross the finish line. They counted off finishers. Leah and Sara came through at fifteen and seventeen. The Jaguars’ first five runners would have the lowest team score assuring them of their fifth consecutive regional cross-country team victory.

On the ride home, Coach Kappa congratulated the team on their victory at the regionals and edging out their rivals from Stinson. She told the runners to take Sunday off and be ready to prepare for states. The Jaguars qualified ten runners for the state championship. Lisa silently vowed she wouldn’t get boxed in at states.

Today’s Quote on Integrity

Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will. ~ John D. MacDonald