Today we finished up our indoor season at the MAC conference championships at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. After bus troubles which resulted in a seven and a half hour drive on Friday, we finally made it to the field house to watch Day One of the weekend events. After an exciting 5K and 800, we all gathered to watch, what proved to be, one of the most exciting races of the weekend, the distance medley relay.
Ohio’s DMR was not the fastest seed, but was the favorite to win. The team had claimed the MAC title in 2011 and 2012, and was looking for a three-peat for 2013. Our 1200 runner got out to a quick lead, fearlessly leading the pack and putting our 400 runner in a great position. After a solid second leg, our 800 runner ran an incredibly fast 2:09, keeping the team in first place. Although our miler had some real competition for about 1200 meters, she had no problem cranking out a last quarter mile to claim the title. This was not only their third win in three years, but a new school record and a new MAC record (breaking their own record from last season.)
We headed to dinner and then back to the hotel for some shut eye (can I just say how much I’m enjoying sleeping in a queen sized bed every weekend?) We left the hotel at 11 this morning, Saturday, gearing up for round two. We had some great finishes in the combined events and field events, and our distance girls continued to impress throughout the morning. The 4×4, my only event of the meet, didn’t go off until 4:15.
I was a little nervous about only running one race. Typically, I will have at least one race, sometimes two, before I run the 4×4. Fresh legs were good, but I still had first race jitters. A few hours before the race, the coaches informed us that they were changing the order. Our fastest runner, who usually anchors, would be leading off, followed by our typical first leg. Third leg was staying the same, which left me, who usually runs second, to anchor. It was a smart move; it would keep us in contention for the first half of the race, and would hopefully keep us in the pack longer than we would be otherwise. I understood why we were doing it, but that didn’t make me any less nervous.
When I checked in, I was handed my hip numbers, and the man at the checkout table told me to “give those to the anchor.” I almost laughed out loud. He must not have thought I looked like an anchor either. We lined up, runners 2-4, on the outside of the track against the bleachers, as DeeDee set her blocks. They were off with the gun, Deeds running faster than she had all season, handing off in a 56. Kiley held her spot, running a 60, and Delaney received the baton in 4th place. When I got the baton, we were in 5th place; second to last.
I heard her footsteps before I saw her. She blew past me, 5 foot 7 at least, one of her strides equating to about three of mine. She ran fast enough to pass me, but then tucked into lane one and stayed only an arms length ahead of me. As we rounded into our second lap, she began to break and I thought for sure I had her. I pulled out on the backstretch to pass her, but right as I got on her shoulder, she dug in. All she had to do was extend her stride an inch, and she had me. It isn’t very often that I get beat in a 60m foot race at the end of a 400, but she did it. She beat me by about a half second.
I was okay though. I knew that I couldn’t have run that race any smarter or faster. I looked at the time and we had finished in 3:57.9: a season best. What else can you ask for really? Clay had my split at a 59, but a teammate of mine clocked me at a low 58. I like the sound of that much better. I later found out that Toledo had been disqualified due to a lane violation, meaning we finished 11th instead of 12th. I felt like Jennifer Lawrence earning a score of 5/10 in Silver Lining’s Playbook: I was ecstatic. It’s the little things, I suppose.
I have considered not running next year. Not only does it take away from time I could be spending on my studies, but it also prevents me from having time with my family. I’m alright, but not great, and I won’t be able to compete at a high level. If I didn’t come back, I bet a lot of the girls wouldn’t even notice. I bet a lot of them wouldn’t even remember my name.
This weekend changed my mind.
I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that I would be anchoring the 4x400m relay at the MAC Indoor Championships for a Division 1 team. Standing against those bleachers, the shortest by at least six inches, I could have laughed out loud, had my nerves not rendered me silent. I feel like a girl among women, a little kid watching these athletes, and I cannot believe that I am one of them. I don’t feel like I am.
I am so happy.
Joining this team was the best decision of my life. I have never been more proud of myself. And I’m going to keep doing this until I am forced to give it up. I will not walk away again. Because I can’t move on. And I don’t want to.