Start of CT state middle school 1600 meter race, 2nd fastest of 4 heats, son in lane 1
A week after the New Canaan-Wilton dual meet, and the triple with 3 PRs, high hopes turned to frustration and disappointment for my 13-year old son at the 2015 CT State Middle School Track Championships at Manchester High School.
Conditions were awful. The weather was hot, humid and windy, with 16 mph winds offering stiff resistance for runners. Athletes for each event had to report to the infield and stay lined up in their heats for up to an hour before their actual race, fully exposed to the sun and heat, with only a lucky few able to crowd beneath the single 8×8 foot tent. The 1600 meters event had 4 boys heats and 4 girls heats, so 8 heats in total, and my son waited about 45 minutes until his heat.
Seeded first in the 2nd fastest 1600 meter heat, sharing lane 1 with another runner as 16 boys were squeezed into 8 lanes on the curved start, my son knew he had to protect his lane at the sound of the gun. What he didn’t expect was a hard shove from the kid next to him, and he landed in the infield grass. Unfortunately every time he tried to run back onto the track, he was shoved back down and all 15 other runners passed him, and he was in last place only 50 meters into the race. My son swung out to lane 4 on the turn to start moving up. At the 800 meter mark, which he passed in 2:40, my son had moved up to about 8th place.
He continued to pass kids but struggled with the 5th place runner from Hartford, who punched my son in the side every time he attempted to pass him. Each punch would knock my son back a few steps, and the constant change of gears cost him more energy. Finally after a half-dozen attempts to pass the other runner, my son settled in behind him, mentally and physically beaten. The last couple laps were tough, his energy sapped from waiting in the heat and sun on the infield, having had a poor start that robbed him of more energy, and then being knocked around in the 2nd half of the race because of unfair sportsmanship.
Coming off the track after running a 5:36, 13 seconds slower than his week-ago 5:23 PR, he was disgusted and vowed to be back for the 800 meters race. With a couple of hours to kill, and shade at a premium, I was concerned that the 800 would be as much if not more of a struggle. He proved me wrong. Again seeded in the 2nd fastest of 5 heats, this time with lane 6 assigned, my son was determined not to repeat the same mistake.
At the gun he bolted and controlled his lane, keeping the outside runners on his shoulder and coming off the first turn in 6th place among 16 runners. He passed the 400 meter mark in 76, a little slow given his 2:29 PR, but to me not unexpected given he was not fresh. However, when he heard the split, he shifted gears and closed in 72 for a 2:28 PR. This time he left the track with a huge grin. And I told him he had every reason to be proud for being mentally strong and bouncing back from a bad race with a PR.
Lots of lessons learned at the CT state championship. Middle school conference championship coming up next.