In 7th grade middle school students are permitted to play school sports. Madison, being all kinds of athletic, played for our school's A team in basket ball. After 9 years of club soccer (3 of which on a competitive traveling team) this experience was a breath of fresh air! Very little traveling, and the traveling they do the kids are transported to the event, uniforms are provided, the season is relatively short, there is very little drama, and the kids have an absolute blast! So when she said she wanted to run track for the school we were happy to oblige.
Have you ever sat and watched a track practice or meet? Just one and you realize why track is such a popular sport among teen kids. It is extremely social. There is so much time between each of their events that they just meander around hanging out, and yes, sometimes cheering for their teammates. It is also combined age group, so Madison made some new, older, friends. Surprisingly, it wasn't a big deal. I have always thought the world of this 8th grade class (secretly wishing that Madison had been just one year older so she could have been a part of it). The friendships she made during track will be a great foundation for the friendships she will make in high school.
After the first practice Madison knew she wanted to run the 200 meter, but was at a stalemate as to what her second event should be. In a rare moment she sought the wise counsel of her elders aka parents. Madison knew she wanted to do a field even, and her minimal ability at throwing balls eliminated discus or shot put, leaving high jump "I'm too short for that." Triple jump "that looks really hard" and Long Jump. Long jump it was.
She really didn't say much about how she was doing at practice, and we really didn't have any idea of what to expect from her. So at her first track meet, when she jumped a whopping 13 feet 4 inches, our jaws dropped! Later in her 200, she beat the competition by an easy 25 meters, it would be a grave understatement to say we were impressed, and so were her coaches... I'd even venture to say that Madison was even a bit impressed as well taking first in both events at this meet.
She started seeking out her dads tips and running techniques to help shave off some time in her 200, as well and sneek in a few more inches in her long jump. One 8th grader at practice helped give her pointers to maxamize her distance as well.
And she just kept getting better! At her second track meet she jumped her personal best of 13 feet 7 and 3/4 inches. She also shaved off a few tenths of a second in her 200 meter time. Finishing, once again, in first place.
Her third and final meet was the district championships. She had been practicing on her form running, as wells as perfecting her distance from the launch board to squeak a few more inches out of her jump. She had a goal of running the 200 in 29 seconds (this would only be 2 tenths of a second faster than her personal best) and 14 feet in the long jump. She figured she could get the extra inches if she hit the board on the front edge and landed falling forward, as on her best distance she hit the back of the board and dropped her hand behind her in the landing.
As fate, or the intense 90 degree heat, would have it, she didn't reach either of her goals, and for that reason alone she was not at all pleased with her longest jump of the day (13' 4 1/2 "), which earned her district champ in the long jump, or her third place finish in the 200 meter (time of 30.12).
I am so proud of my daughter, not because she is district champion in the long jump, or because she is the 3rd fastest 200 meter runner in our district. . . No, those titles will fade with the passage of time, someone will come up behind her and shatter her records; most people have already forgotten her amazing feats. What brought tears to my eyes and constricted my heart was my daughters pursuit and desire for excellence. The work, the preparation, the focus, the drive, the goal, and maybe most importantly the disappointment of falling short of that goal that pushes her to continue. Those are the things that will withstand time, those are the things that will cause her to succeed off the field, and off the court.. . .
. . . and pursue excellence in life.