The setup for our story was this:
High school senior wants very badly to make it to the state cross country championship in her last year. Her team has a good chance to make it, but it will be a tough meet on a tough course. Dad is feeling melancholy over it possibly being her last race. The last few weeks have been all about this climax to the season. Pressure is high.
I know from bike racing that when you line up for the Big Race everything is different. When the stakes are higher and field of competitors is deeper, you realize it’s not like that little race you won last week. You have to adapt and race the race that is in front of you, not the one from last week.
Our hero and her team were crushed under the weight of the Big Race. They went with the blistering pace at the front in the uphill first 1/4 mile then soon paid for going into that oxygen debt so early. The tears I knew would be shed were tears of disappointment. It’s tough to end your last race thinking that you “should have” done better.
That’s why they run the race.
Before the start I was so caught up in the atmosphere of anticipation and excitement that I didn’t have time to focus on the “this may be last race” feeling. Then afterward I ran around watching a friend’s daughter in the D1 (big school) race. It wasn’t until I got in my car and drove out of the parking lot with the course flags visible in the rear-view mirror that I fully realized that this was the last time.
It was a long ride home from Youngstown.
Teenagers, with their short attention spans, will soon shift to whatever is the Next Thing. If only parents could be so lucky. I’ve got a whole series of “lasts” coming in the next six months.