Love to Run
Chapter 12 ~ Coach Kappa Challenges Lisa To Do Better
Claymont High School hosted the league championship on it’s home course. It was their turn in the rotation of where the championship would be held. It would be a decade before they could host it again. It would rotate among all the high schools in the league.
The course location didn’t matter to the Jaguar runners. They placed one, two, three, seven and ten easily winning the league title for the fifth consecutive year. Lisa placed third, only seven seconds behind Mia and two strides behind Marie. The three of them separated themselves from the pack of runners in the final half-mile and ran away with the first three places. The entire team was in a celebration mood. They boarded the bus, Lisa was anxious to text Nicole and tell her about the race.
When she boarded the bus, Coach Kappa who was sitting in the front seat behind the driver, patted the seat next to her and said, “Lisa, sit here.”
Lisa tightened her grip on her cell phone and slid into the seat next to Coach Kappa. She had no clue what Coach Kappa wanted. Coach Kappa usually sat alone on the bus trips.
The bus driver asked everyone to fasten their seat belts. She got up from her driver’s seat and walked down the aisle making sure all the girls were buckled. When she returned, she closed the bus door, started the engine and began the trip back to Nickerson High School, home of the Jaguars.
Coach Kappa said to Lisa, “You ran a great race, today.”
“Thanks, Coach,” said Lisa not sure where Coach Kappa was heading.
“Tell me about the race, you know, your part in the race,” said Coach Kappa.
“What do you want to know, Coach? Mia, Marie and me ran away from the rest of the field. There’s not much else to tell,” said Lisa.
“I think there’s a lot more to tell, give it a try,” said Coach Kappa.
“Okay, Coach. I got a pretty good draw, number twenty-five. When the race started I sprinted across the open field toward the trail. I was tenth when we got to the trail. I saw Mia, Marie and Leah in front of me. I don’t know if they were in the lead or not, I was concentrating on my form.”
“Good, keep going,” said Coach.
“I got boxed in by three runners from Red Willow. It almost seemed as if they were doing it on purpose. There were two in front of me and two on my left, the running side of the trail. I couldn’t step off the trail on the right because I would have been disqualified.”
“I understand. What did you do?” asked Coach Kappa.
“At first, I was hoping they’d separate a little and I could squeeze through an opening, but they didn’t. I didn’t want the leaders to get too far ahead of me, so I dropped back.”
“You dropped back? Why did you do that? It cost you some time,” said Coach Kappa not really as a question, but more to make Lisa think about why she dropped back.
“I know it cost me time, Coach. The way I figured it, they wouldn’t notice me dropping back. When I was three strides behind them, one of the runners looked over her shoulder at me and saw me content to be running behind them, I thought I saw her smile. That’s when I turned the jets on and sprinted on their left and passed them before they realized what I was doing.”
“Did Nicole teach you that strategy? It’s a good way to get out of being blocked in,” said Coach Kappa.
“No, Coach. I figured it out all by myself,” said Lisa with a bit of pride. Then she continued, “At the mile marker, I was forty yards behind the lead pack. I didn’t panic, I concentrated on my form and kept repeating my motivation saying as I ran.”
Coach Kappa interrupted Lisa, “What is your mantra that you kept repeating?”
“It’s just something Nicole and I share, that’s all, Coach.”
Coach Kappa turned a bit toward Lisa and said, “You don’t have to tell me. Whatever it is, keep using it. Now tell me about how you caught up to the lead pack of runners.”
Lisa was picturing the race in her mind, she said, “Around the two-mile mark I pulled within twenty yards of the lead pack. I was comfortable there. I settled in coming up slowly on them. I didn’t want to let it all out. There was still a bit more than a mile left to the race. I had plenty of time. It’s an easy course with only one hill at the 2.75 mile marker. That’s where I planned to make my move. I did, when I hit the base of the hill, I poured it on. I caught Leah on the hill and by the time I got to the top of the hill I was running third behind Mia and Marie. Mia picked up the pace going down the hill and got a bit of separation from Marie and me, but not too much.”
“Why didn’t you go after, Mia?” asked Coach Kappa.
Lisa shrugged, “I don’t know. I just didn’t.”
“Are you saving yourself for the marathon?” asked Coach Kappa.
Lisa knew she held back and now she knew, Coach Kappa knew. She didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t say anything.
Coach Kappa turned to Lisa and spoke softly, “You and Mia are the best runners on the team. I believe you are her equal or better. Your thinking is misguided. What do you think Nicole would have done in your situation? I want you to answer me.”
Lisa didn’t look at Coach Kappa. Coach Kappa said, “Lisa?”
“She would have gone after Mia. She wouldn’t have held back.”
“So, you didn’t give it all you’ve got. I think I heard you tell me that before,” said Coach Kappa.
Lisa wondered if Coach Kappa knew that was her mantra. She said, “Sorry, Coach. I promise it won’t happen again.”
“I believe you, Lisa. I want you to run the marathon with Nicole. Don’t think I don’t want you to run in it. Let it be a fun run where you and Nicole can enjoy and talk about your seasons over the twenty-six miles. Can you do that for me?” Coach Kappa asked.
“I can, Coach. Can I sit with my friends now?” asked Lisa.
Later that night, Lisa struggled to fall asleep. It was eleven p.m. and she was wide awake as she might be at noontime. She wondered if Nicole were awake. She texted her.
Lisa flipped her iPhone over on the lamp table next to her bed, turned off the light and pulled the blankets up over her head. No way was Nicole awake.
Sixty seconds later, the text ringtone.
What’s happening Lisa?
Lisa grabbed her phone.
Didn’t hear from you when I text about the league. You okay?
Nicole texted back.
Sorry. I really am sorry. We were out on a long training run. We have the league championships on Wednesday. Plus, I have a paper due Monday and a big Chem exam on Tuesday.
Lisa Texted back.
It’s Ok. Coach Kappa thinks we can capture states. She says we’re peaking at the right time.
Lisa watched the little bubbles dancing on her phone.
Awesome. What was your time?
Lisa was ready for Nicole’s question.
Mia ran 14.50, course record, Marie ran 15:02, I ran 15:04.
Lisa didn’t wait long for Nicole’s reply.
Lisa, you beat my freshman time at the league meet by eight seconds. Think you’ll catch Marie at the regionals?
I going to give it all I’ve got.
That’s the spirit. I have a hunch you’ll be the number two runner going into states. Can’t wait to run the Thanksgiving marathon w/ U. G2G
Lisa stared at the text message. She read it, and read it again and again. She closed her eyes and pictured Nicole and she running in the marathon … and she fell into a deep sleep.