We turned left out of the middle school driveway and headed towards the Merritt Parkway. My son, who had just stepped off the bus that returned from his class trip to Lake Compounce amusement park, voiced his concern: “Dad, I though we’re going home, I don’t feel well and don’t think I can perform at the WCC Conference Championships!” My wife chimed in: “You are putting him under pressure, let’s go home.” We had planned our training to peak for the Western Connecticut Conference middle school championships, and unfortunately his middle school planned the year-end class trip for the same day.
Following a day of roller coaster rides in the sun and heat, broken up only by a lunch of hot dogs, soda and ice cream sundae, my son’s last track meet of the 2015 outdoor season looked in doubt. He missed the 1st meet due to a hyper-extended knee, missed another meet with bronchitis, and I didn’t want him to end his season without accomplishing his goals. He set the goals, he put in the effort, and now it was time to realize his potential. Based on his last 10 days of training, he was primed to race well and crushed the 800/400/200 progression workout and the rolling 200’s. I continued driving towards the Merritt Parkway and calmed my son and wife with “let’s see how you feel after your warm-up”.
My son started feeling better as we warmed up, and he focused on the task at hand. Before he lined up at the start of the 1600 meters, he looked me in eye and said “Dad, I think I can run 5:18.” His previous PR was 5:23. I re-assured him that he was fit to run even faster.
Seeded 6th in the fastest of 3 heats with 12 kids lined up, my son positioned himself mid-pack, but with the heat a tactical slow race, he moved up to 3rd and passed 400 in 80, 800 in 2:42, and 1200 in 4:05. He looked comfortable, but was aware that he was in a pack with national level runners. At the bell, the train took off, and my son closed in 73 to place 6th (out of 36 conference qualifiers) in 5:18.83, a 5 second PR from 3 weeks ago. I think if he had not been on the class trip, he could have run 5:15. We were both happy that he ran a tactically smart race and a 2:42 / 2:36 negative split, and that he had the strength and speed to close fast. He was only 5 seconds slower than the 5:13 winning time.
He came back 30 minutes later to run the 800 meters, again seeded 6th in the fastest of 3 heats (only the 55 meter hurdle finals and 100 meter dash finals were in between the 1600 and 800). It was almost 9 pm, the stadium lights had been turned on and it was twilight, he was obviously not fresh, and he lined up as one of only two boys in the fastest heat to double. Unlike the 1600 meters, the 800 meters was fast from the gun, and he passed 400 in 70 and hung on for another 74 to finish in 2:24. Although he faded to 7th (top 6 score points), it was more satisfying that he achieved a 4 second PR from his 800 meters at the Connecticut Middle School States Championship 800. And the 2nd PR of the day.
Beginning season goals plus hard, consistent effort during season equals positive results in championships. Everything came together for my son in this meet. From his 1st dual meet on June 8, where he ran 5:35 for 1600 meters, he dropped his time 17 seconds in a month. And that includes a bout of bronchitis in between. He also had a slow start to the outdoor season with several injuries that interrupted training and racing (IT band, bruised arches, hyper-extended knee). So overall a good outcome. And rewarding for all the challenging winter training, and motivating for the upcoming summer cross country training.
Time to set new goals and go to work. As a parent and his Coach, I can only smile and be proud.
Start of fastest heat in 1600 meters (son 6th from right)
Twilight start of fastest heat in 800 meters (son 6th from right)