Maybe we all knew it at the time, how these were some of the purest of moments. It wasn’t stated outright by many. I’m sure I said it at various points, tending to be prone to hyperbole. But this was deserving of the “hyper.”
Hyper-colored browns, yellows, reds amid the withering autumn leaves. The quintessential cross-country smell of freshly cut grass. Canyons of rock enveloping our yellow bus as we drove along I-64, usually in the right path to Lexington but once onward to I-71 and nearly to Cincinnati when Top drifted into his own world (all of our girls but one missed the race start that day & Top felt horrible about it). Hyper-anticipation/anxiety/excitement. All of those crazy, conflicting race day emotions. Knots of tension in our stomachs. But absolute freedom once we left the starting lines.
So many memories from all of those race trips. Remembering yesterday, I wonder: how many other teammates think often upon those times? Am I literally still living out my high school years, mentally if not physically? Do the Jordans, Tiffanys, Kulanas, Katherines, Natalies, Tims, Prices, reflect on these times? Teresa, Estep, Autumn? Could I really be the only one with two framed collages of team pictures directly next to my bed? Well, either way, I can never forget being tripped at the start of the Southern Invitational and somersaulting across the grass as guys went hurdling over me. I jumped up, ran ahead to Price and uttered the now classic line he still needles me for: “I’m moving up!”
Then, the time Price had to stop and pee next to a tree in the middle of a race. Not to mention the time at McNeely Lake when he fell on a turn.Top backing the yellow bus up and over an innocent homeowner’s mailbox.
Estep, Price, & I running over a tiny curb at Bon Air Manor shopping center and Estep eating it hard on the asphalt, tearing open his knee. Our guy’s team running an adrenaline-charged sprint through the old Bashford Manor Mall and then into the adjacent Target, where I proceeded to throw my hat on top of a large net full of toy balls.
Soon, also throwing an infamous Converse shoe of mine onto the roof of Mr. Gatti’s after an awards dinner. Tim’s massive pectoral muscles that captivated every young lady for miles around. How could anyone forget those?
I realize not everyone is a cross country runner. In fact, some folks out there may not even like to run. But I would like everyone to reimagine themselves within that time of purity. Innocence. The liberty of a life imagined. Of a life not yet lived. It was not even as if all was right with the world.
Regrettably, that has never truly been the case. Wars were occurring. Animals were being slaughtered. Virgin forests were being clear cut. Child trafficking was taking place, even within our own city, perhaps. Yet, even in the midst of such external forces pulling at our world, that Seneca Cross Team of ’93 & ’94 and its counterparts in track & field were alive. We were building something that had not existed before. Our youth propelled us forward into the greatest of times. Those were truly the days.
It was not as though our eyes were shut to others. In fact, thanks to school educators & mentors, our young eyes were opening. However, in that glorious teen age of emerging thought, heart, emotion, we were connecting with others. At the conclusion of each school day, some far more stressful and taxing than others, we would meet and all cares would fall away. Most of us not knowing one another before and few of us even very good friends outside of running, we nevertheless encouraged our fellow runners with all our might during training and races. We lived each afternoon together. We held each moment.