Cross-Country Menace

One Week Before Tryouts

Jessica and I were talking and laughing on our way home from school when I decided to tell her my news.

“Hey, have you heard about the cross-country team tryouts? This is my only chance to prove to Coach that I’m capable of running. Every time I try out for cross country, I always end up in the Junior team, which really sucks. But not this time. I’m going to show him that I care and very determined to be on the Senior team. That means I gotta start training!”

Jessica instantly replied, “Good luck with that, I’m gonna be at the finish line cheering you on.”

We had a moment of silence, until Jessica said, “I can’t wait till next week!”  

And I knew why. The world’s soccer playoffs were next week, and Jessica was CRAZY about soccer. But that was the least of my worries. I was very nervous for the cross country tryouts, and I meant what I said, I really had to start training.

That was what I had been waiting for, for the last three years. I was determined to fulfill my dream and my mom’s, who had sadly passed away last year when I was only 11 years old. She was a champion runner. One day, possibly next week, I’ll be the champion runner on this team, and carry her legacy. I hope all of my training helps me win my way up to success.

I was always an under-confident girl, but there’s this one quote which my mom used to say, which always helped me, “No pain, no gain.” Every single day when we gathered around the dining table before we ate dinner, we had a tradition where we prayed before we ate. And everyone around the table picked whatever they wanted to say, mostly famous quotes that help your way up to success. Now, with only my dad and brothers, we just silently eat at the table and we don’t pray. Without Mom, my whole family just seems like complete strangers to me.


The Day It all Depends On


I knew this day would come eventually, and I was prepared. I was walking out my driveway, waiting for the school bus to come. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Jessica. She was in her front yard, probably also waiting for the bus. She was dribbling a soccer ball and doing all funky and really cool moves. She mastered a move called the “Ronaldo Chops,” invented by Ronaldo the Great, a.k.a Cristiano Ronaldo. I ran over to her.

“Hey Jess, are you ready to cheer me on today? I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly a month now,” I asked.

Her expression changed from really excited to not so excited. “Yeah, I can’t wait!” she sarcastically exclaimed. I knew something was up with her, but I wasn’t going to let that bother me, at least not for now.

In every class I seemed to pay less attention. I was really nervous, but also very excited. I was confident I would make the Senior team. Every day I jogged for at least half an hour or more with my dog. I also took dance, which helps on flexibility. If you have flexibility, you tend to run faster and you don’t get sore muscles easily. At the last period, the bell rang so loud, I was literally knocked off my chair. It was time.

Half an hour later, we were all were spread out across the starting line. I took a quick glimpse around to see who I was racing against, and I saw a familiar face.

It was Jessica!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I knew something was up with Jessica, but I didn’t know it was trying out for the cross country team! She looked down at the ground as if she were trying to avoid me.

There wasn’t enough time for me to go to her and ask her what she was doing here. But now it looked pretty clear to me. The coach had blown the whistle to gather our attention. It was time for the real deal. I clenched my fists.

“Alright runners, today you will be running two miles. This is going to be timed, and your time determines if you are going to get on the team or not. At the count of three, you guys start running. Get ready! One… two… THREE!” yelled the coach.

I ran fast as soon as I heard his loud voice on three. I didn’t bother running to Jessica, because I knew that if I talked, I would’ve grown tired. I was running, keeping a pretty fast pace. Along the way, I saw people kicking a ball, which had to be soccer tryouts.

Then I began to think, Jessica knew all this time that she was trying out for cross country, then why didn’t she tell me? After I saw the one-mile sign covered with many bushes and plants in the forest trail, I looked back to see who was catching up to me which I know you should never do when you are racing.

I wasn’t looking ahead, and my leg got stuck in a bush. I tried to to jiggle it out, but instead a thorn pushed against my skin, and my leg started bleeding. I kneeled down, trying to pull out the thorn from my leg. I watched as people ran by including Jessica, leaving me behind in the dust. She gave me a nasty look. I didn’t bother, I had a much bigger problem to deal with. I took a leaf and some sap off a tree, and tried to pull the thorn out, and it worked! I figured that the sap would have a good grip on the thorn, since it’s sticky. Who knew that paying attention in my biology class actually helped in real life. Thank you so much, Mrs. Barnett, our biology teacher, I thought to myself.

I stood up, and this time I was fully determined to win and continue my mom’s legacy. This meant everything to me. Nothing mattered more to me now. Just winning. This is the moment where I show myself what I was cut out for. Being a true winner and fulfilling my mom’s dream, or betray my trust and my mom’s trust. This all added up to everything. All that training and time that I spent on cross-country. I started crying inside my head, this was the hardest part of becoming a champion, showing that you were a champion, and it was totally worth it.

You can do this Amber, you can do this, I kept repeating in my head. I whizzed past many people, including Jessica. She didn’t expect me to pass her, kind of like the story of the tortoise and the hare. I came across the 1.75 mile sign. 0.25 more miles left, I thought, and the torture would soon be over. My legs were getting tired and I started breathing heavily, but continued to run. I could see the finish line from here. I felt a wind pass by, and realized it was Jessica. Typical Jessica, trying to beat me and come first in the race, but I caught up to her. Then, I realized that Jessica and I were the only two who were in front of all the runners.

Great, I have to be competing against my best friend. Thank you so much, God, I thought. We were side by side, neither of us seemed to be getting ahead of each other and we stayed exactly at the same pace. I could hear Jessica’s loud, and hard breaths. Suddenly, I felt a grip on my back, lost my balance, and fell on the ground. Luckily, there was just dry mud which looked a lot like sand. I saw Jessica smirking and eying me. Right there, I realized that she pushed me, so she can beat me and come first. Then, and right there, I saw my destiny, for now.

My mind couldn’t think anymore. All I was focused on was reaching the finish line. I got up and sped across the finish line, passing Jessica. At that same moment I thought that this was the best moment of my life. I would never get that moment back, but I would always remember it.

I sprinted as fast as I could to the finish line and heard the coach say, “Whoa, Amber, you really did it this time. I’m really impressed with you for coming in first place this year. You really worked hard to get on top, and I have a feeling you’re going to be my best runner. Keep up the  great work.”

Jessica passed the finish line, and glared at me. I saw her grab her water bottle. She took a few sips and came to me. There was a sad and guilty look on her face. I stood there, frozen in happiness but puzzled at the same time.

“I’m really sorry about everything. I’ve been a really bad friend lately. I’ve been meaning to tell you this and it was really hard to try to hide it from you. I’ve been training to get in the cross-country team for a long time now, and finally prove to my mom that I’m capable of being responsible and dedicated. My mom always looks up to you and she really likes you, which I totally understand. It’s just that my mom thinks that I’m not capable of handling anything and she thinks I never devote myself to do anything. But I didn’t want to tell you because I know that this is really important to you and you’re doing this to make your family proud, especially your mom.”  Her eyes looked like they were made of glass. “And now, I’m positively sure that once they found out you came in first, they will definitely be proud. So, I’m really sorry. I was being a really unsupportive, terrible friend, and I hope you could forgive me.”

There were a million questions I had to ask: “First of all, why didn’t you try out for the soccer tryouts, when you told me you were going to? You have a real talent in soccer. You know that, don’t you?”

Jessica blushed a bit. “You might think that, but it’s the total opposite. Plus I never really had a passion for soccer. I hated it last year, and the kids used to tease me and make fun of my fails at attempting the moves and skills. I wanted to try to do something new, but I never meant for us both to compete.”

I stared at the ground for a few minutes. I was so still it looked like I was a statue. I had to think this through carefully, because I knew this was an important life decision that could affect me in my future.

“I know the pressure sometimes that parents put on you and even me, and I know you weren’t truly trying to hurt me. I know that in life you will never have the perfect friend but you having a really different personality makes you my friend. So I forgive you, and I really think you deserve to have a second chance. Honestly, everyone makes mistakes. Remember the time when I accidentally set your hair on fire?”

There was a moment of laughter, when I heard the voices of my brothers, my dad, and my dog barking. My dad looked happy for the first time since my mom died.

“You made all of us proud, Amber, even your mom. She would’ve been really happy to see you standing proud,” dad said happily. My dog barked as if agreeing to my dad’s statement. I was filled with joy. Jessica nodded in agreement.

My younger brother said, “How about we go to our favorite ice cream place, we haven’t been there since mom…. “ his voice trailed off. Everyone had a sad look on their face. But I wanted to end this once and for all.

“All we’ve been doing since mom died is just crying and weeping, but it’s time for us to change that. I say we to go to the ice cream place and celebrate. I’ll pay for all of you guys.”

“No Amber, this one’s on me. I think we both know that I owe you BIG time,” Jessica uttered. We both looked at each other with deep meaning.

“No,” my dad suddenly said, surprising us. “It’s on me. You deserve it.” He gave me a meaningful look, and I knew that he was talking about more than ice cream.

“We all do,” I said.

This was just one of my many problems I will face in my life, but my mom’s quote will always stay with me and encourage me to stay confident and believe in myself in whatever I do: “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s only when you accept everything you are, then you will truly succeed.”  

I took Jessica’s arm as we were leaving the school. The sun was setting, the trees were swaying, and I realized we were the last ones there.

“Come on,” I said to everybody, “let’s go.”


THE END.                                       

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