Sunday, September 10, 2006


Chowhound had a cross country meet this weekend. It was a huge invitational. There must have been well over 1000 high school kids competing in all the events combined (girls, boys, JV and Varsity). I was amazed at the turn out. Some parents gripe about their teenagers sleeping all weekend and here were all these kids choosing to run 3.1 miles at 8 am on a Saturday. I was the one wanted to sleep in.

These kids are amazing. I am not a runner. I have tried it but my body revolts. I stick with roller blades, bicycles or elliptical machines. Anything to ease the impact on my joints. So, to see these teenagers volunteering to sweat profusely and push their bodies at that time of morning is simply amazing. I congratulate each and everyone of them just for showing up. They are all winners in my book.

However, there were a few that stuck out from the crowd yesterday. Two that struck a cord in my heart and made me want to cry. They weren't the leaders of the pack. They both went in knowing that they wouldn't come in first. They weren't competing against others. Their opponent were much tougher. They fought against themselves.

One girl fought against her weight. I admire her strength and determination. Physically, she was obviously not a runner like the rest of the kids. But, she was there. She sweated. She struggled. She finished. She is a winner. It takes great guts and determination to do something when you know that you will stick out of the crowd. But, she chose to do it anyhow. What courage! The other parent I was talking to commented that she would never have put herself in that position. She couldn't face the humiliation of coming in last and standing out from the crowd because of her weight. That my friends, is what is going to make the difference in this young girl's life. She choose to do what others are embarrassed to do. I applaud her. She will go far in life.

The other big winner of the day took me by surprise. Chowhound had finished his run and we were heading back to our tent. We stopped at the track to wait on a few runners. We waited at the final turn in the track. Just one turn and one straight away to go. As we waited and watched, I heard a few kids start cheering for one particular boy. He was a little bitty boy. He didn't look like an athlete. He was walking. He was fighting back tears. I just wanted to go hug him. I felt so bad for him. His chest was heaving for air. You could see the anguish and grief in his face. He didn't want to cry in front of all these people. The other kids from his team kept cheering him on and then slowly everyone around us starting cheering for this kid. He kept walking. As he walked around the bend of the track I noticed what made him so special. He had an inhaler in his hand. This kid had asthma or something and yet he still competed in an event that requires a great deal of something he couldn't get. Oxygen. Wow. What a trouper! He started a slow jog and finished the race. Just Wow. I really fought back the tears.

These two are truly winners. Their prizes won't be a trophy or anything they can pin to their chest or wear around their necks. But, something far greater in value. Self respect. Honor. These kids have guts. They have what it takes to go against the odds. They have courage.