By Sia Kortequee
I have been running track since the age of nine. I am now on my high school’s track team, and these were my thoughts at my last meet.
I wake up on a freezing Saturday morning.
It’s the day of the meet. I can feel every bone in my body chill. The thoughts cloud my mind.
How can I pull a win?
How can the girls beat our biggest competitor, North Rockland?
Am I going to be late to the bus?
The thoughts are interrupted by my mom, sparking the start of the knots forming in my stomach. “How are you gonna run like that?” She points to my large legs, my stretch marks, my everything. The thoughts flood my mind again.
What am I going to do?
Is my body holding me back?
Will my lack of muscle hinder my performance?
Does my body fat percentage determine if I am a good runner?
My mom was right: I’m not committed enough for this. The feeling of inferiority floods my brain and crushes my heart, my stomach churning and my body shaking. The memories of past meets—of when I failed, and how I can fix it this time—go in and out of my mind as I wait out my remaining time at home, before I have to meet with the team and get on the bus.
I quickly hop into the car, and my mom speeds through neighborhood after neighborhood until we arrive at the school. I look out my car window and see the big yellow school buses. The thought of the cold leather seats and metal makes me break out into a cold sweat.
As I step onto the bus and take my seat, the bus is too loud, filled with other people talking and thinking about their own events. Each conversation is a blur. All I can think about is my first event. The fifty-five-meter dash. The dreaded dash. I am all by myself; no one else is entered from my team. No one to fix my mistakes. No one to walk with me to the infield.
The bus halts, causing me to break my focus about the fifty-five. I step off the bus. I pull my phone out and show the security guard my vaccination information. Hand shaking, I open the doors to the armory.
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I start to warm up. The hallway is crowded and sticky. I try to run back and forth in this hallway. Then I hear it.
ALL DASHES, CHECK IN.
That is my call. I rush up to the track, run across the infield, and ask the angry old man for my heat and lane.
HEAT 2, LANE 5.
I reply thank you and am dismissed right away. I wait and wait and wait. I can’t help but shake and sweat. I feel fear. I step on the line, do a few jumps, then start thinking of my shoes. I look down, think, think, think.
Are they tied? They are too tight.
Are my spikes in correctly?
Do I have all of the spikes in my shoes? No, they are too loose.
Am I going to lose because of these shoes? I should’ve worn my other ones. Should I change? I can’t. I’m literally on the line.
ON YOUR MARKS.
Oh, God, focus, focus. Think about accelerations. The first step is the most important step. Get out and go, get out, get out, get out.
Oh, okay, okay, raise my legs, take my time. Am I starting on the right foot? Okay, open your eyes. I just want to scream. I can’t breathe. This needs to be over.
It all goes black until I finish. I need to see my time, my place. I see the screen and my heart sinks. Tears won’t form. I feel rage, anger.
I wasn’t good enough.
I’m never good enough.
How am I going to look anyone in the eye? That’s eight points I could have scored. We are going to lose.
It’s all my fault.
My inspiration for writing this piece was a prompt my mentor provided during one of our weekly sessions. The writing process was grueling. I had to relive a very upsetting moment of my life to gain the accuracy for the piece. While writing, I learned a lot about my thought process before a race and how my mind jumps around while somehow staying hyper focused.
Sia Kortequee is in the 10th grade and her favorite subjects are history, criminology and psychology. She’s involved in her school’s yearbook and photography elective, the Autism Awareness Club, the Gay/Straight Alliance and the varsity track and field team. Her father is from Sierra Leone and her first name, Sia, means "first daughter." She’s thinking about careers in sociology, child psychology, crimes statistics analysis or internal affairs.