I broke this classic picture out two years ago for a #ThrowbackThursday. Everybody loves a good ole #TBT. It’s from the Fall sports awards at Athens Drive High School in November 2000.
All of the teams would gather in the cafeteria for the main ceremony. The principal and a few others would speak, the teams would present their MVP awards, and then the teams would separate into classrooms to present their team awards.
I was a 15 year old Sophomore. I had the typical bleach blonde hair popular in the late ’90s and 2000s. Baggy shirt and pants, tie and watch I borrowed from Dad.
There’s a video clip somewhere from earlier in the season when the hair was even more ridiculously bright.
To most people, understandably, it’s a funny picture and I shared it for that reason. I got a good chuckle at my Facebook friends’ reactions. But, after a while, as the comments and likes came in, I started to remember more clearly how I felt in that moment.
The head coach (pictured), Amy, just handed me my varsity letter for Cross Country, my first one. In the weeks leading up to this moment, I wasn’t sure if I had enough top 10 finishes to get enough points for the letter. I just barely made it. My personal record for the 5K dropped from 23:50 my freshman year to 19:35 (which also earned me the Most Improved Award). I beat my Dad’s best time by 20 seconds and he was there for me to do it.
I was genuinely surprised and overwhelmed when I got the letter. I had to try not to cry.
I looked down at the letter as I got it and I remember all the memories flooding back.
All those extra mile repeats I would run during practice to increase my endurance. Learning about proper nutrition on my own for the first time to get the right fuel for a runner. Working extra hours life-guarding at the pool during the summer to buy a nice watch to keep track of mile splits.
Two-a-days during the summer. Grueling training in the Pisgah mountains. Being exhausted after a race, coming home to do my homework immediately so I could get enough sleep for practices the next day.
Being told by the girl I liked she was going to date my friend instead just the week before.Being bullied by senior football players (who, by the way, won a total of three games in four years during my tenure) for “not playing a real sport.” Finally turning a corner in dealing with anxiety after a rough freshman year.
Dyeing my hair that color because I felt like I had no identity and did something crazy to show myself I could do something without worrying about the judgment of others.
I don’t mind jokes at my own expense and my sense of humor (and penchant for puns) ain’t going anywhere.
I don’t have some overarching lesson here.
But, sometimes a picture doesn’t tell it all. I had forgotten what a special moment this was for me and all the things I had to go through to get there. It was one of the first big goals in my life.
Also, getting to the top of the mountain was literal. The last run at Pisgah was to the top.