I was the shortest kid on the team. What team? Every team. Looking back on trying out for the 7th grade basketball team, if I was a coach I would immediately say he’s too short. All I heard was “you’re cut”. It’s easy to see the decision now, but not when it crushes your basketball dreams as a 12 year old. So I moved to no cut track & field.
Mike Fried beat me every mile race in 8th grade. I struggled to break 6 and he was running 5:30’s. Then in 9th, Pete Lynch and I ran 5:22 & 5:24 and we couldn’t believe what our futures held (neither of these times are remarkable but for whatever reason I remember that race). In 10th grade, I broke 5 in the mile in winter track. Junior year I ran a 10:12 in the 2 mile. My senior year was an injury plagued cross country season running in the pool and after that disappointment, the thrill was gone, college was approaching, and the sport was gone forever from my life.
Running for 4 years in high school is mind blowing. As a 9th grader I earned the nickname “little dude”. I only wore boxers in those days and they would seep out of the short shorts so I was forced into buying tighty whities. I was frightened of having to take a shower with the team because of my pre pubescent johnson. Rob Kluxen told me what masturbating was by putting his thumb and pointer in a circle and saying, “you do this real fast around your pecker”. In 10th grade Brett Phelan wanted me to ask his sister to the Coronation Ball and I was mortified about going with a younger girl. I was mortified of asking anyone. When I asked Yael Guez in 9th grade I walked into her class room after the bell, said, “would you like to go the coronation ball”, she said , “yes”, and I walked out. Mike Fried who watched this engagement said, “that was brief.”
Getting into XC puts you in the group of cross country runners and, without being cruel, they are nerds. You don’t end up in cross country because you’re the most popular guy. It’s a spot for the relatively athletic people to play a sport that doesn’t require skill. It’s dedication over talent. I don’t regret doing it but I only look back and think if my life would have been different if I made that basketball team in 7th grade. If only I were 6 inches taller. Would my life and the people around me alter? Jeff and Sam both went the running path and you’d have to think I influenced that decision.
Without being fully negative, doing cross country has given me the motivation to stay in shape. There isn’t 20lbs overweight for me. If I’m hurt, I’ll ride a bike. If I can’t do long runs, I’ll find a jump rope. There isn’t that excuse for why I can’t keep myself active. Now I’m not saying that will never happen to me. Life throws curve balls all the time but cross country has instilled that “it’s not so bad” mentality in me. I didn’t want to run today because it’s cold and icy. I did it anyway because it’s better than not doing it. I think running my whole life has given me that edge. So as much as I dog this “sport”, there are benefits that will make you a better person.