by Grady B., Age 15 , Grade 9, Lawson High School, Lawson, MISSOURI USA
Teacher: Kathy Jacobsen
The Long Run and the Short Field
By Grady Blair
Choosing between two interests you love feels like drowning. You have to swim fast and remember to breathe, even if the waters are rough. Running cross country and playing football were the two interest I wanted to do. Most people said it was impossible, but my coaches and I made it happen. I remember the doubt, the influences, and the end result. I never thought the seasons would would in end the way they did, but I learned that doing both was possible, and exciting.
I loved running and coach Smith, the cross country coach, knew it. He told me about cross country and told me how good I could be if I worked hard. I also loved throwing a football and Coach Crawford, the offensive coordinator for football, was aware of that. I didn’t think it was possible to do both, but I decided if I worked equally at the two, it could be done. There could also be no complaining about the extra work.
Later, after talking to my coaches, I knew I had to prove that I could and would do it, especially if I wanted to continue doing them throughout high school. I had influences that wanted me to do a certain one. My best friend wanted me to run cross country while the team I’ve played with since first grade wanted me to play quarterback. It didn’t help when Coach Crawford would dog on me about the first football camp. At the end of eighth grade, I decided to do both and nothing was going to stop me.
Then, summer came. I ran every other day with the cross country team. Coach Smith had time trials at the Lawson City Lake and I had one thing set on my mind. I was going to be in the top three times. I wanted to run my first meet on varsity so badly.
A storm came through when we were running that day so it was pouring.The rain stung as I ran against the wind. Everyone was so spread out that I didn’t really know my place. I finished in second place with a time of about 20 minutes. I was excited, but I knew that time wouldn't get me a medal at a meet. With that out of the way I had football camps coming up so my mental focus switched to football.
In the first camp, nobody wore pads so I felt safe. I didn’t look very strong and I knew it even before Cody, the varsity quarterback, told me I sucked. Nothing got better when the team went to Northwest Camp. It was the hottest week that summer and it didn’t feel any better on turf. Every day was terrible. I was drenched in sweat and my body hurt. When it was time for lunch I wanted to sleep, but I knew I had to eat. I only knew how to play quarterback so a new defensive position did not go over to well at camp. Sometimes on the field, I even went against the the biggest players. I weighed 135 pounds and looked like a sitting duck to them.
Getting to go back to the dorms was the best part.If someone fell asleep, Lane, a player, would try to hit him with a sock full of Gold Bond. Max was going to be the first victim when everyone gathered around his dorm. The plan failed because when Lane walked in, Max woke up so we all ran.
Another fun memory from camp was playing “BB Butcher”. The rules were simple. If we said a word that had the letter B in it, we got punched until we said “BB “Butcher.
Almost the whole team was in a dorm room when Bradley walked by and exclaimed, “ I love banana cream pie!” Everyone immediately jumped up and chased him down the hallway. No one hurt Bradley, but we scared him pretty bad.
Then Northwest Camp was over and I knew I had a long way to go if I wanted to play on Friday nights. On our way home everyone fell asleep on the bus until the tire popped with an excruciating noise. We stopped in Cameron, got a new bus and made it home.
Now it was time for two-a-days with pads. I also had a lot of running to catch up on. I ran by myself after football because I always missed Cross Country practice for football. Even though no one was pushing me, every day my times were faster. It was ironic that when I ran after football practice I always saw coach Dunn drive by and wondered what he thought of a football player running Cross Country. Two-a-days were terrible. We’d practice for two hours in the heat, soaked in sweat. There was another hour of practice after a short break where everything we wore was gross and wet. As a freshman, football did not seem great at the time and I leaned towards cross country as my focus. However, i stuck with it.
After the long summer, games and meets began in the fall. My first cross country meet was odd because it was only half of an actual race. It was really wet and I could feel the humidity. I medaled at my first varsity meet which was amazing.
The next week I played in my first Varsity football game at Higginsville. I played defense and made a tackle against their varsity team. I jumped up to hear my name being announced over the stadium speakers. That feeling to this day has not been matched.
Fast forward to mid-season. Everything slowed down, practices seemed longer and harder. Being a freshmen you get picked on in football, in cross country you didn’t. The only exploit that kept me playing football were the coaches. They said there was improvement and a chance at starting next year. They even supported me after Cross Country meets. Coaches would always asked if I medaled or got a new P.R. I had goals set and I was determined to achieve them. I shared with them that. This year I’m going to state. Next year I’m going to start on varsity for football.
I dreaded it, but hoped for it, the end. I was still swimming, but sometimes just treading the water to breath, just to make it to the end.The night of our football district championship game I will never forget. Even though I didn’t play, I cheered the entire game. My team fought hard, I could see steam rolling off their heads. I held cards for Coach Crawford and the offense. I’ve never seen him so frustrated. By the end of the game he was all grins. We won districts, but I couldn't celebrate for long. I had to drive to Columbia for state cross country in the morning. Having to go from Lexington to Columbia made me a little upset because I missed out on spending time with my other team having fun in a hotel room. The cross country team left a day early to shop, eat, and walk the course. I didn’t know what the course was like so I was really nervous. Getting up in the morning didn’t feel great, but it was a beautiful day so that encouraged me.
The sun was shining and it was about 70 degrees outside. My family and I made it to the spot where the team congregated. I didn't warm up a lot so, before I knew, it the race was starting. I got stuck in the back when the gun sounded. It didn’t matter though; everyone running was so fast. The first mile was cake and I was shattering my lap time. However, the second mile was all uphill. I thought it’d ruin my time. I powered up it and with the last mile to go I had to kick it in. I took off in a sprint, I’ve never ran the final mile that fast. I could see the timer. If I ran hard, I’d P.R. The stretch was up and downhill, but I did it. I crossed the finish line at 18:16 as a freshman. I finished 80th out of over 200 and broke my P.R.My parents, my best friend, and even some football teammates were there to support me. That season was over, but football was still going.
Our next game was a dominant win, but the state semifinals were something to worry about. Our opponent,Trinity Catholic was a private school who had hand picked players. Some were even going to play Division One football. We put up a fight, but they were just more athletic. I hated watching my brothers cry, so to cry I began too. It was my closest friend, Max’s last year so I was really upset. I’d look forward to next year though.
As I juggled both seasons, I learned a lot. Football showed me a brotherhood like no other, while cross country showed me a unique support system that elevated me to state. Both together taught me how to be loyal. I decided not to choose one, but to swim and breath. That’s how I survived drowning. I met most of my goals for both sports, but there are still some left over. The leftovers really impact my decision for next season. I will run cross country and football and be the best I can at both.