Friday was the Hempfield qualifier for the Hershey Track meet
Steph wanted to do the standing long jump and one of the sprints. Since she could do two running events I also ( against he will) signed her up for the 400.
In the standing long jump she jumped 5' 1" which was good for 4th.
In the 50 yard dash she finished a close 2nd, which was great, but only the winner advances to regionals.
That left the 400.
Steph was not happy. She got her ribbon for the 50 and that was good enough. Some of the high school kids had told her that the 400 was the hardest event and that combined with the fact that it was 88 degrees had her scared. What made matters worse was having to sit around for 20 minutes until after all the heats for the 200 were conducted.
I tried to take her mind off things and walked her around the infield a bit and joked around with her, but she'd have none of it. " How fast should I run...what happens if I'm last....I don't know what to do", she grew more worried by the minute.
As the start approached I told her, " Run at a comfortable speed and stay near the middle. I'll stand someone near the finish and when you get to me just start running as fast as you can."
They run this event as a pack race so the girls do not have to stay in a lane, but when the shot the starter pistol Steph stayed wide around curve by herself in lane two.
" Move to the rail, stay to the inside", I tried yelling over the crowd to no avail.
At the 100 yard mark a couple of girls separated themselves from the pack and got a two stride lead. With that Steph moved inside and settled into third place. They runners started to distance themselves from the field and the winner would come from these three.
At the 200 yard mark the lead runner picked up the pace and second place started to crack. Her stride faltered and got choppy and she started going backwards with each step. Steph went wide around her and lost another stride now falling three strides back.
" STAY WITH HER ! KEEP HER CLOSE !", this was heart wrenching.
I moved from the 80 yard mark out past 100 yards. Steph was going to have to close a lot of ground and if she stood any chance she'd have to start sprinting early. The girls started exiting the final curve coming to the 120 yard mark. The girl in the lead had the smooth relaxed gait of a distance runner with he face relaxed and calm. Three steps behind was Stephanie grinding it out, desperately hanging on with her face wincing in pain.
I leaned over next to the rail and into her ear, " you have to MOVE IT !!!!! NOW !!!!.........NOW !!!!"
In a blink her expression morphed from a struggling 9 year old girl into something very very frightening. She looked like a cross between a hungry lion and Mike Tyson looking at a Robin Givens poster. And she started to run.
Her initial burst brought her right onto the girl's heels and the crowd started to scream. The yelling inspired the front runner and she lifted the pace holding off Steph at the 70 meter mark. Then out of the crowd and up to the edge of the track stepped someone who looked remarkably like my mild mannered wife. Above the roar of the crowd I could hear her screaming, " GET HER !!!!.......GEEEETTTTTTTT HERRRRRRR !!!!!!!
Stephanie found one more gear and pulled out into lane two along side the girl. 40 meters....30 meters....then Steph started to gain ground. Finally the other girl cracked. 10 meters to go she had a full stride and that's how they finished 1-2, a good five seconds ahead of third place with Stephanie running her first quarter-mile in 1:23. Not bad for a 9 year old.
I was really proud of her effort and more proud of the fact that she congratulated all her competitors and consoled the distraught girl in second place. She's a really great kid and I'm happy to see her efforts rewarded. I'm hoping the experience will also help her when she's faced the the next intimidating thing that comes along.
Oh yeah, her mother is a little embarrassed but shouldn't be. I'm proud of her too.