Saturday, April 19, 2014

Glorious track days

This week my sister-in-law, Natasha, competed in a heptathlon at my alma mater, Azusa Pacific University. Natasha had a severe foot injury that required surgery and a year of recovery, so this was her first heptathlon in two years.

She nailed it.

Her foot surgery last year necessitated a number of changes to her approach to the heptathlon, including having to switch her take-off foot for the long jump. Despite the difficulties Natasha faced coming into this meet, she got personal records in five of the seven events, including the long jump, which resulted in a personal record in her overall heptathlon score. It was an exciting post-surgery debut.

I wish I had pictures to show you from the meet. The sky was blue, the breeze was gentle, the athletes were sleek and studly, and the air was humming with adrenaline-charged electricity. Olympians and aspiring Olympians sprinted, hurdled, threw and jumped to the sound of firing starter guns and cheering fans. It was a beautiful sight.

But it's hard to take photos when adrenaline is coursing through your veins and turning your stomach's contents upside down. So all I have to show from the meet are these photos of my sister-in-law and some of her competitors and friends. (I didn't take these photos; I stole them off Facebook, man).

Top Twins

A number of my teammates from my track days were at the meet his week. I loved getting to connect with them. These folks are my people. They're closer than close, specialer than special. They'll always feel like family to me. I guess that's what happens when you train 40+ hours every week together. All that sweating, vomiting, cramping, stretching, ice bathing, competing, and eating pasta with a common goal has a way of bonding a group of young people for life. We'll always get each other in a way others don't get us.

Seeing a handful of my old teammates yesterday had me pouring through photos today, reminiscing about the good old days.

Here I am as a freshman with my original 4 x 400 meter relay team. We were chocolate and vanilla.

This is my second 4 x 400 meter relay team, after a few of our teammates graduated:

The four of us ran on the same relay team for three years. Three of us were also 400-meter hurdlers. We ran a loooot of 400s those three years...

One year three of us 400-meter hurdlers made it to the final at Nationals. It was a blast. It was also very hot. And windy. Too hot and windy.

 We were thick as thieves. And tired as tired can be.

Sparks and I competed in the same events for 4 years. We were great pals.

These boys. I still love 'em. Here we are a hotel in Johnson City Tennessee. The team loved going to Tennessee. Mostly for the sweet tea and the opportunity to practice our southern accents. Well, the girls like practicing their southern accents. One year we girls maintained our southern accents, for the most part, for weeks after we'd returned to southern California.

We spent a lot of time in airports traveling to and from competitions. This looks like Utah. Must've been a layover.

Prepare for taaaake offf! This is Parish. He was a philosopher-sprinter, just like me. 

 We also spent a fair of time in hotel rooms. In this picture I am doing my best mosquito impression, the accuracy of which is obviously uncanny.

 Lorraine was my training partner for four years. She is so, so special to me. She is also a very, very fast Jamaican. Boy she made me work hard to keep up.

Our team hiked Half Dome in Yosemite every year. It was a glorious adventure. 

 We also had kayaking races after the big annual hike. Here Sparks and I are killing it, for the win.

 Sometimes we played the "Ha-ha-ha!" game between events at competitions.

Every spring we'd have to stay on campus after everyone had gone home for the summer. The school put us all up in the same dorm, and we liked to pile in someone's dorm room to watch movies. Those were good days. 

My college track years were some of the best years of my life. I've missed them, and I'm glad I can still participate in the track world through my sister-in-law. It is an unexpected and lovely gift.

And the financial gifts some of you gave to Nastasha's campaign last week were lovely, too. As Natasha was warming up for the meet my brother leaned over to me and said, "I'm so glad my campaign ended yesterday. It was such a wave of encouragement for Natasha as she mentally prepared for this big meet."

So if you prayed, or contributed financially, or shared the link to her campaign on your social media site, thank you, from the Jackson crew.

© by scj

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