Coach Peggy Sims was a short, athletically built woman around 40. She had a big voice and an aggressive personality. Her track and field team at Maxwell High School had won the State Regional Championship for five years in a row. Peggy was now impatiently pacing the football field, waiting for her athletes to change and get on the field for practice.
She quickly read over the information on her clipboard. There were six seniors and six juniors that she was already familiar with.
But now, she had these three new sophomores, Daisy Ray Greene, Willie Coleman and Grace Withers.”What should I do with them? Where do they fit in on the team?” she mulled this thought over in her head.
She looked around for Andy. He was the student representative. He might have some useful ideas on where to place these new students.
“If I knew where he was, it’d be easier,” Coach Peggy mumbled to herself. She let her eyes roam the field for him, “There he is…”
Andy walked out of the gym hand in hand with Maria Langley. Behind them, at a slower pace, the rest of the team members filed out from the direction of the coke machines. All of them with drinks in hand.
“Geez, they’ll all have cramps by the end of practice drinking all that soda. I guess I will have to have a discussion on diet before a run pretty soon.” She walked in the direction of the children and passed her clipboard over to Andy when she reached his side. “Andy, take attendance please. Also, do you know anything about the new tenth graders? Are any of them good distance runners?”
“Dumbo is definitely a distance runner. The other two I don’t know about.”
Peggy’s eyes roamed the group of teens approaching her. She spotted Daisy’s ears as she jogged happily along next to Connor Bailey. She smiled at the carefree child then looked directly at Andy. “Why is it that you feel so free to call that young lady Dumbo? You know my rules about picking on tenth graders.”
“She’s a friend. I’ve known her since she was a baby. She’s still a baby as far as I can tell,” Andy laughed as he watched Daisy’s ears come closer.
“There will be no name calling on my field Andrew Victor. Now go take roll while I talk to the kids.”
Coach Peggy took a plastic bag out of her backpack and held it open. She slowly moved from person to person.
“Okay everyone, put your cans right here. Lessons number one, don’t drink soda before a run. Can you bring water bottles next time? You’ll run better that way.”
Next, she passed out calendars and category lists with everyone but the tenth graders names on them. “You’ll notice that the last Saturday of every month we have a track and field meet somewhere. September 25th is our first meet. It’s at Johnson High School. We’ll take a bus from here at 7 a.m. Do not be late,” she paused to put a big grin on her face then continued, “We all love Surfside Academy right? We have two meets with them this year. It could not be helped.”
The kids began booing, “Down with Surfside! Down with Surfside!”
Coach Peggy laughed loudly at their enthusiasm. She hated Surfside as much as they did. She turned up her volume and continued her speech, “Let’s beat Surfside shall we!”
The competitive bunch of teens cheered energetically, “Go Maxwell!”
Coach Peggy cheered and laughed right along with them. Then she returned to her instructions. “Our first meet is at Johnson High in September, then Surfside comes next in October. It would be good to cream Johnson first, so that Surfside doesn’t get any puffed up ideas about beating us in October! We have to train seriously from this point on if we want to accomplish that!” She stopped for a minute to look at her papers again. “Look at your schedules. December is the only month you have off. March is a county competition, April is the State Regional Championship, and May is awards and graduation. On the back side of your schedule you will see what events I have connected your name to. If you disagree, tell me today,” she stopped then to give everyone a chance to take a look at where she’d put their names.
“You there. The one with the…” Coach Peggy was about to say, “the one with the ears,” but she thankfully caught herself. She took a quick, irritated glance at Andy for putting those words into her head.
He just grinned at her, knowing what she had almost said.
Coach Peggy pointed to Daisy and changed her word choice, “You there, the young lady next to Connor Bailey. What’s your name?”
“Daisy Greene,” she smiled excitedly. She was so thrilled to be on a real live team she could hardly contain herself.
Coach Peggy returned her smile. “Well Daisy, I’m putting you with the distance runners, alright?”
“That’s exactly where I want to be,” she happily agreed.
“Me too,” Willie piped in suddenly from behind her.
“Yea me too!” Grace hollered out.
“Okay, then. The new tenth graders are all two milers.” Coach Peggy wrote their names into the appropriate spots on the assignment chart, then yelled in her biggest voice, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road! Everybody stretch out! You’re going to run around the football field eight times. Start where the tires are. Every time you get to the tires use them! Don’t go around them. Lift those legs up real high and run right through them. After each lap come back to me for water then go the next lap. Follow this pattern until you’ve completed all eight laps. Got it! Let’s go people!” Coach Peggy began clapping her hands loudly and hitting everybody in the back to get them moving and that is how it went for the rest of practice.
September 25th rolled around pretty quickly. Daisy and Grace were super excited about their first official High School competition.
A man’s voice suddenly boomed from the loud speaker over the football field, “All girls running the two mile, please take your place at the starting line!”
“I guess that’s us,” Daisy meekly whispered to Grace. They jogged over to the starting line together. Butterflies fluttered around in the girls’ stomachs as they stretched out. They wished their friends were around to encourage them. Connor, Andy, Maria, Mark and Willie were all off running in their own events so there was no one to wish them good luck but Coach Peggy.
Coach Peggy noticed the jittery pair of girls from the sidelines and jogged over to the starting line to greet them, “Hey there girls, you’re look ‘in good. Remember what you’ve been learning at practice. Start out slow then gradually pick up your pace, one notch at a time. Then give everything you’ve got at the end. Save it for the end girls. Don’t rush it. You can do it!” Coach Peggy smiled and held her hand up for high fives.
Giving an older woman a high five was very unusual. But they responded to her encouragement and returned Coach Peggy’s high fives with appreciative giggles and loud slaps in the air.
“On your mark… Get set…” shouted the loud speaker. Then the crack of a gun went off, and the race began.
Daisy and Grace stuck to each other like glue as they zigzagged through the crowd of runners, looking for just the right spot. The running group thinned out after a few minutes. Some enthusiastic girls took the lead immediately and others stayed in the rear, unsure if they could finish the course. Daisy and Grace found an empty spot smack in the middle. They just hung out there for a while. They’d run at medium speed just like Coach Peggy had suggested and reserve their energy for the ending. Lap one, lap two, lap three, lap four and lap five went by in this way. Lap six and seven they picked up their pace and held it securely. Some of the front girls dropped back behind Daisy and Grace now. Then on lap eight, Daisy and Grace decided it was time to pick up their pace again. They steadily increased their speed over and over and over again. Faster and faster, one notch at a time they took ground with youthful vigor. They could see the finish line now. Desire to take it rose hungrily in the girl’s hearts.
“I want it, I want it… take it, take it…” Daisy repeated within herself.
Grace was her only competitor now. The two girls flew past the bleachers full of noisy spectators. Their arms pumped in perfect sync with their legs, eyes focused, seeing nothing but the yellow tape before them. With one last mighty gust of strength Daisy pulled out past Grace and sped through the tape.
The girls jogged around in circles, attempting to catch their breath as other runners came through the finish line after them. Daisy looked up to the sky, hands on her hips, walking in circles, until her heart stopped its mighty pounding, and her breathing slowed to normal. She passed Grace as she made circles. They both grinned hugely as they jumped in the air giving each other victorious high fives.
“Good run Daisy,” Grace exclaimed.
“Yea, runners rock!” She was elated. They jogged off the track in search of their friends.
Every Maxwell athlete did well at the Johnson High school track and field meet. It was great fun, and everyone was extremely happy on the way home.
Jeremiah Chimes announced on the bus ride back to school that his father was out of town. He had the house to himself until Wednesday. “Let’s have a big party Sunday night at my house!!” he yelled to the whole bus load of kids!!
All the kids screamed, “Hooray!” They threw their shoes at Jeremiah in agreement. Even Connor was throwing his shoes and yelling.
Mark, Maria and Andy were not yelling however. They were just leaning back in their seats resting their heads on the back of the chairs enjoying the aftermath of a meet well done.
Maxwell’s Sports Roster & Schedule
Sprinter: Girls- Susan, Rachel
Boys- Carl and Aaron
Relay: Girls- Susan, Josie, Chrystal, Robin
Boys- Mark, Carl, Aaron, Vince
Long jump: Jeremiah and Jason
Pole vaulting: Jeremiah and Jason
2 mile: Girls- Grace, Daisy Ray
5 mile: Girls- Chrystal
10 mile: Girls- Maria
Boys- Andy, Connor
September– Johnson High School
October– Surfside Academy
November– Columbus High School
December– Off for the Holidays
January– Merrillville High School
February– Surfside Academy
March– County Competition
April– State Regional Championship
May– Maxwell School Awards & Graduation