Love to Run
Chapter 13 ~ Focus, Focus, Focus
The state cross-country championship was open competition. Runners from every high school in the state could compete. There was no division based on the size of the school. Runners first competed in the regional cross-country races to qualify to run in the state-wide championship. Nickerson High School, the Jaguars, was located in the South Regional District. Most of the teams that won the state cross country championships came from either the southern or western regional sections.
Monday, after the league championship the Jaguar runners entered the locker room at the end of the school day and were greeted by a bulletin board filled with newspaper clippings showing the times and names of the Jaguars’ biggest threat. Every newspaper clipping posted by Coach Kappa was about the Stinson High School runners. Their co-captains told a reporter this was the year they were going to win and defeat Nickerson High School.”
Coach Kappa gathered the team together in the locker room. She said, “There are new guidelines for qualifying for the state championship this year. Each of the regional districts is having a record number of runners competing. Because of the high number of entrants in each of the regionals, the state committee is only selecting runners meeting the minimum time they set to qualify to run at states. The more runners who meet the qualifying time, the better our chances to repeat and with our fifth championship. We need at least five to have a chance to repeat as state champions, I want all fifteen of you to qualify. I’m asking a question. I want you to shout out the answer. What are we going to do this week and next?”
The team in one voice hollered, “Work hard. Focus, focus, and focus.”
Coach Kappa said, “I hear you, but I don’t feel it. It’s not loud enough. It’s not coming from your heart. What are we going to do?”
Mia, Marie, Leah, and Lisa stood up, the rest of the team followed their example. Together, the entire team shouted loud enough to get a dog barking across the street from the school gymnasium, “Work hard, focus, focus, and focus!”
Coach Kappa said, “That’s the spirit. Let’s stay focused. Today we’re working on speed drills, tomorrow’s distance. Speed drills the next day, on Thursday, we’ll do five mile run on a hilly course, then Friday is our rest day. No parties. No late nights. I posted a list of the foods to eat that will give you the energy and stamina you need for the races.”
The Jaguars followed worked hard. They focused, focused, and focused. Lisa looked forward to Friday before regionals. It was a day of rest and recovery, that’s what Coach Kappa called it. It was also a teacher workshop day.
Friday morning, Lisa’s mom and dad let her sleep in. When she woke, She showered and dressed and went into the kitchen. Lisa walked to the refrigerator and saw notes her dad and mom posted to her on the refrigerator door.
Her dad’s note read:
Remember to take it easy. Catch up on your school work. Stay away from thinking or going online to check on the regionals. Do some fun things. See you at dinner. Love, Dad
Lisa was happy she had no tests next week. She’d get her homework out of the way so she could enjoy Sunday, then she’d play video games. She hadn’t done that for a while.
She read her mom’s note:
Hot oatmeal is in the small crockpot. Raisins and nuts in the top left shelf next to the energy bars you like. The top shelf has all the foods Coach Kappa put on the list. Even Dad’s not allowed to touch the shelf. See you around five. Love, Mom
Lisa loved her mom and dad. She knew they loved her. They treated her no different than Nicole. She knew she was one of the lucky ones, especially when she listened to some of the kids at school complain about their parents.
She took her time eating her breakfast. While she ate she had her iPad next to her. Her dad’s note said to not go online and check out the regionals. It didn’t say anything about the Thanksgiving Turkey Day Marathon. She decided she could tell her dad the truth and say she didn’t go online to read about the regionals. She felt better and then typed in http://www.thanksgivingdayturkeymarathon26.2.com.
She quickly connected to the website. She scrolled through photos of last year’s race. She scanned through the times of women finishers. Her eye caught a link on the right hand side of the page that read: Age categories. She clicked on the link. She eyeballed the youngest category for awards, ages 12 to 16. She made up her mind she was going to win it. She organized her training for the marathon in her mind. She’d keep her word to Coach Kappa and the team. But, on the day after the state championships, she was going to train hard for three days in preparation for the marathon. She was going to make Nicole proud.