Saturday, April 18, 2015

Everyone, meet some of my favorite people

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite places in the world.

Not the library...

...Not Colorado...

...Not Trader Joe's...

Someplace better:

Azusa Pacific University's track. 

I love APU's track. I love the smell of its hot rubber and the grip of its spongy red surface. I love the hum of excited athletes and the sound of the starter's gun. I love the competitors' intensity and devotion, their guts and glory. But the best part about Azusa Pacific University's track is the people.

Would you get a load of these guys:

These two were seniors on APU's track team when I was a freshman. They are good men who taught me many important lessons my first year on the team.

Lesson #1: If you are leaning over the gutter about to puke after a workout, you should probably drink some orange Gatorade. It will help.

Lesson #2: Kindness, humility, conviction, character, and commitment to Christ are essential leadership qualities.

Lesson #3: Spandex is to track what cream filling is to Oreos. It is necessary for human flourishing, especially during those hurdling workouts.

Yesterday APU hosted the Bryan Clay Invitational track meet. Thousands of athletes and spectators gathered to enjoy the meet, among them a handful of alumni. Boy, it was good to see so many of my old teammates.

My teammates and I didn't watch all of the races because we were too busy catching up and reminiscing. Also, APU served alumni Chick fil A, and it is hard to cheer for athletes when your mouth is full of fried chicken. Oh training days of impressive musculature and low body mass index: you are a distant thing of the past. Bless it.

These people make me feel all warm and marshmellowy inside:

Let me tell you about each of these men.

Bibi (on the right) is one of the first people who taught me about leadership. I don't think he meant to, but I watched him and learned. Bibi includes the outcast and cares for the marginalized. He is loyal and kind and chooses to do the right thing even when it hurts. He cares for others' needs before his own. He's also fun and has a quick wit that sneaks up you and leaves you laughing till your sides hurt. His commitment to serve Jesus by serving others is a gift to his friends, his wife, and his sweet little kids.

On the left is Bryan Clay. Let me tell you a story about him: the first few weeks of my freshman year my teammates started talking about the dreaded 300 workout that would soon be part of our weekly training regime. The pain it inflicted was so intense, it was legendary. Several weeks into my freshman year I ran the 300 workout for the first time, and when it was over I found myself on the ground at the finish line in the fetal position, grimmacing from the pain. You guys: I am not even kidding when I tell you that I briefly wondered if death would be less painful than that workout.

But then Bryan, an APU track veteran, came over to me: "Hey, good work, Sarah," he said. "But your muscles won't relax unless you get up and move around." So he helped me to my feet and supported me as we walked a lap around the track. I have lots of stories like that with Bryan. He goes out of his way to take care of people — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think this is because he has a compassionate heart and strength of character. He's the kind of guy you want to win an Olympic gold medal so boys and girls everywhere make him their role model. Oh wait. That happened. I'm thankful that aspiring athletes everywhere have someone like Bryan to look up to.

And then there's Gabe (right). Gabe is tender and hard-working. Kids love him because he is playful and funny. Adults love him because he asks good questions and really listens to their answers. He leads by example and acts with integrity. Also, he is hilarious. I think he must be the best dad to his two little boys.

This here is Matt Sparks.

This here is Sparks and I circa 2006.

Sparks and I were both hurdlers so we spent approximately five million hours together over the course of four years. He's the perfect person to spend five million hours with. He's funny, fast, and is the best inventor of spur-of-the-moment games I have ever met. He also has a way of making you feel like you're interesting and important. That's a wonderful quality.

This is Jarvis. I call him Jarv and he is great.

He didn't get to goof off with the rest of us because he was making sure the meet ran smoothly. He's always helping out like that. Here's what you should know about him: if you ever have a chance to befriend him, you will love him for his loyalty, humor, and authenticity, Amen.

When my teammates and I are together, we talk lots and lots of track. Stats, events, and up-and-coming athletes. We also speculate about what kind of athletic performances we've still got in us.

 Naturally, this kind of talk almost always leads to someone sprinting over a hurdle on the infield:

Now if that doesn't look like an athlete in his prime, I don't know what does.

*No hamstrings were pulled in the making of this picture*

Track is life-changing, there's no doubt about it.  The discipline, the victory over pain, the travel — they all make life rich, like a slab of melt-in-your-mouth Belgian chocolate. But the people are what make track absolutey, positively glorious. It's always the people who make life beautiful.

And hey, the sunsets and stadium lights aren't too shabby, either.

I hope you have all sorts of glowing moments with your people this weekend, my friends.

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj

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