Most of my fondest high school memories were birthed during track and field season. From my very first day on the team in ninth grade, I knew I had found true love. Looking back, I could not have asked for a better experience and I find myself craving the season almost daily, although I know I will never lace up my spikes again.
Yes, I could look into joining the team here at Oswego, but I can’t imagine myself ever doing so because I have learned a great deal about myself since retiring from track, and I know it wouldn’t be the same. I love working out, but I prefer to do it alone now. Setting personal goals and reaching them however I please has improved my mental health a ton. When I exercise now, I don’t think about the time on my watch or the people passing me, I just think about how good I feel and how grateful I am to be able to run. This was often not the case when I was running competitively — the daily practices and constant competition often made the sport feel like a chore. However, I feel this way about every single sport or organized exercise I have ever taken part in; track was just my favorite so it stands out in my mind. Also, at the time I didn’t realize how annoying these things were, it was just what we did and what we’re supposed to do as a team.
Anyway, while this lesson was important for me to learn, I want to focus on the aspects of high school track that I miss all the time — the things that left me thinking of high school happily.
Firstly, I truly had the greatest coaches and I owe so much of my wisdom to them. They tailored their coaching tactics to each member of the team and did everything in their power to make practices and meets both fun and successful.
During my four years of running, no two teams were the same. Each year we lost and gained members which drastically affected the dynamic of the team. While one team does stick out as my most favorite, each one of them brought so much joy and laughter into my life. One of the best parts of a sport like track and field is that there is an event for everyone, which means the teams are full of people from every clique. I had the opportunity to get to know and even befriend so many people who I would have never thought to talk to otherwise. Moreover, even though I often dreaded tough workouts, I always looked forward to goofing around with my team and my coaches. Even when I couldn’t breathe nor feel my legs, or when I was disappointed with my performance, I could count on everyone to make me cry laughing in no time. Track was always something to fall back on after a long day and it brightened up my darkest moments every time.
On another note, being a part of something so incredible and successful was one of the best feelings I’ve felt to this day. Our team – and I say this in the most humble way possible – was absolutely unstoppable. From winning the league championship for the first time in eleven years to securing that title three years in a row, to becoming sectional champions as well – we were truly a force to be reckoned with. Although track is viewed as more of an individual sport, its athletes would be absolutely nothing without each other. One of my favorite traditions was lining the entire track with my team and running across the infield screaming like our lives depended on it during the final relay race of the meets. We would go to these huge invitationals after school and compete until midnight, but no matter how exhausted we were, no matter how much rain or snow was falling, we were not missing that race. We were there for each other on the good days and the bad and it was the greatest feeling.
Lastly, the memories that stand out in my mind the most are the ones with my sister. I never realized how truly special it would be to be on a team with her. We competed against each other and pushed each other. When one of us qualified for a race, the other held blocks and brought warm clothes to the finish line. We wandered around invitationals together and warmed up together and became part of the same friend group. We even got to work together on a 4×1 relay team. In fact, I was able to run my very last race with my sister and, thinking about it now, it still gives me chills. Our school was hosting Sectionals, which I knew would be my last meet, and as usual I led off the relay and my sister finished it up. After I ran my 100 meters, I ran across the field to watch the end of the race, just as I had routinely for 4 years – but of course, this time it felt different. We were ahead from the start but, as I ran across gasping for air and cheering, my sister continued to pull ahead. After she crossed the finish line, we hugged and cried just a bit and our coach let us know our results. We ended up finishing first in our heat, third in the entire section, and earning our fastest time of the season. It was truly a picture-perfect ending to four amazing seasons.
All in all, track is the one and only thing I truly miss about high school and I would go back in a heartbeat if it meant I could have one last race.