Book 2 Chapter 6 section 3 Tales of Dead Armadillo We Have Ignition original novel of crosscountry running by Esteban Erik Stipnieks


Wednesday meant no workout that crosscountry class period. Power bars were consumed at lunch. The legs of the team were looser the slower pace of the Tuesday meant that well tonight would be run as it was meant. Winning always felt better then losing. Aero had felt tone and his partying was going to stop. The bold dare imitated by the seniors on the guys team.  What one person had initiated was the battle cry for the push that was coming. The girls were now well aware of the storm that was building on the male side of the team. Amanda was more relaxed and she was looking forward to the workout. Raul would be profiled in addition to the fact that people were aiming at taking district. Amanda caught Stephen in the halls "Ready to go to Regionals?" She had a smile on her face. She looked at him "What was your theme song freshman year?" She paused as Stephen smiled Stephen said “Don‘t stop believing?” Amanda looked at Stephen with her blue eyes. She then said, “Make sure the guys live by the song.” It was a command. Ace revealed "Coach Bob is moaning less....he talked about his disappointment to me while I was a Bronco."   Stephen did consider her authority greater then his on the team. He replied, “Remember there is another song etched in our heads during first grade."  Ace continued "If you ladies want to throw down a dare....."

Stephen rolled the film the last period of the day and discussed Raul with Angela who was doing a profile on him. Susan heard it. Stephen was struggling to find something positive. He knew of the partying. Susan finally said "Why don't you just call the cops." Stephen suddenly found himself having justify not. It was just rumor and talk. Stephen King soon found himself hating himself for not wanting Raul to get busted. Stephen was at that time well aware of the fact he had fallen into the trap he had criticized the principal and assistant principal for falling into. Stephen King realized his attitude was wrong. He wondered if he would happy with an honest third place for the team if it meant Raul and Aero were busted for drinking. The answer disturbed him. He did have a roll of film for the night. Coach Bob looked at the team as they sat in in desks "Ace is going to have to run a couple 800s with the girls so he can get photos....remember he is our plant on yearbook staff so treat him as such."

The stadium lights were on. The air was in the sixties. The cars started filling the athlete’s parking lot. Tom was there first. He and Coach Bob talked some. It was simple 800s. As the full team assembled French Fries had learned his lesson. He was not tempting fate. As the guys and girls stretched it was clear that Dennis being there meant that the call was no retreat. Stephen had been told by Coach Noel Scott  "Remember guys do not leave girls to solo this year at district." It meant something. Ace got some photos of the team stretching. Tara's face had a smile and that was striking. Dennis's face had his drive. Stephen Ray was smiling sensing though the nucleus of the team was growing hot it was not out of control. He could not whimp out tonight. He realized that he would not get too much grief but the guilt would be heavy. It was the factions on the team remained factions but betrayal was whimping out Ace now had mixed emotions about the song "Don't stop believing" it was crazy people doing crazy things and immoral things. Yet it was about a dream district coming on fast finishing first would be one heck of a way. With that walk to the line Ace started singing "Don't stop believing...hold onto that feeling.” Dennis joined him briefly followed by Bo.  

Coach Bob shouted Go! with that the continuing cyling Stephen was doing meant that his stride could metaphorically be extended first third and fifth gear in under 20 yards. The Air Max had been purchased at the start of the season and the track surface could absorb the power. It was little different then a tire making contact with a road. In 20 yards he was already 85% of max the lactic acid threshold in the rearview mirror. He made the turn the fear he had felt as a freshman had long disappeared a cavalier attitude in about the searing burn ahead was in its place fueled by urgency. . Even his realization about Raul and his feelings had fueled a greater fire. He could see Coach Noel Scott in a distance. He passed Thomas and saw Tom close ahead. Mike was tight beside him. Coach Bob was shouting "That’s it men lead!" Stephen reluctantly allowed Mike on the inside at the turn. The homestretch was ahead of the first lap the speed sensation was tangible along with the burning of the legs and hard breathing. Coach Bob was shouting "Way to believe!" Mike finally pulled head but not by much as the second quarter of the first of seven 800s was started. It was inglorious without finesse. It just mashing the pedal to the floor for two laps. 

The first 800 started the top four girls ran with the guys. Amanda found herself relaxed as the first quarter went by she added just a bit of speed. She was a senior her time was running out but with the media focus on Raul like running in lighter shoes. Stephen King was charging up front. Dennis was ahead holding his own establishing his leadership. She knew she would pay a bit of price as her next lap began....she did not care. She was actually having fun with the speed. She heard coach Noel Scott at the top of the quarter by the high jump pit. She could feel the excitement. Yeah her legs were heavy and were burning as she completed the turn but it came with the territory. She was running with the burden of stardom lighter. As she ran towards the finish of the first seven she knew she had started a good workout.

Tara could see Amanda running faster. Her mood during lunch had been lighter. Tara could feel duty giving way to excitement and hope. She found some extra speed. The fun quotient despite her burning legs was increasing. The second lap began she could hear Coach Bob cheering her on. Leisha was further behind her. She could see Raul already deep into is second lap out of the corner of left eye. She continued a slight acceleration to what would be a full blown quarter sprint. She felt courage through turn one and as heart rate and breathing increased so did her desire down the back stretch Coach Bob shouted "Way to Go Tara you are making your father proud." It was loyalty to Kimber, and Julie and believing in the dream of Stephen and realization of her faith. She loved her dad yet the moral guidance planted into was rapidly becoming internal. It was something that if her father could realize would have brought a tear of incredible joy to his eyes.

The guys and top four girls walked a lap feeling the fire. Yet as they walked and the lactic acid was being flushed from their legs there was another set of fires burning. Leisha had been pulled into the nucleus the fire was the desire for victory. Linda quipped "If you guys want number that one bad at district it would be nice having to cheer you on at Regional’s." Leisha quipped "Yeah we have nothing to do before we run anyway." Then Linda sensing the team behind her at that point looked at Raul "You better not embarrass me and get drunk between now and district.” Bo replied “You see Raul we are not playing fair we are getting your older sister to whoop you for us.” Stephen Ray said "That’s not playing fair for Raul but hey who am I to complain." Raul realized he was not going to win this one and finally said "No drinking till after district." They made it to the starting line again. Pulse check was done they had it lowered enough for another assault beyond the lactic acid threshold.

As Tom took off he was aware of how time was slipping away. Yes he knew tonight was just 1/7th through but the only thing about this workout he would regret is if he could not look at himself at the end of it knowing he shirked. He took off hard. He only knew courage and drive. His soft-spoken nature and warmth were the container of a senior whose own fire was stoked and was roaring. Bo was number three with Dennis behind him Serg was just ahead. Ace Thomas and Mike were in very close proximity. Coach Noel Scott had a boom box playing Journey "Don't Stop believing.” The sound cut the night and blended with the sound of his footsteps pounding rapidly. A brief shot of eye contact strength from the soccer coach playing second fiddle to Coach Bob. He was now on the main stretch he was not alone.

Aero seemed to understand or have a grasp of understanding that the team was far bigger. As he crossed the line he could hear Coach Bob try to cheer on Ray as he was close to Ace and Thomas. That bobble of speech was encouraging. The flight deck on rocket was crowded but tasks had been divided. The launch was going on Regionals or bust. He was hearing the music again. Commitment his gentle manner pitch was now the oath the team had taken again. He dare not attack his own dream. His legs were on fire as the lactic acid levels in them were peaking. One action was worth a thousand words as he went all out to the finish line.

Stephen was realizing the force of what was going on as he made the first turn. They did not talk too much going to the line but the attitude was filling the air. As he neared the fifty yard mark on the back stretch the les Paul of journey was exploding piercing the night. Coach Noel would do it. The brief eye contact transferred strength. It was the very leadership Ace aspired to have he was unaware of how much of it he had been displaying. His tongue could be razor sharp but it was being used rarely. Every time he grabbed Exceed and spread encouragement he was acting like Noel Scott. His effort on the first lap even allowing Mike to be on the inside was having an effect. He saw the finish the line one more lap. Yeah the legs were burning so what. With a nudge of the throttle he was now 100% of max. Coach Bob echoed "That’s Ace, Thomas, and Stephen" Senioritis was raging full fire now or never. The second lap was oh so fast though his legs were burning he was stunned to hear the next bit of Don't Stop Believing so soon and then staring down the homestretch of sacred Unicorn stadium. Coach Bob handed the camera to Stephen he quickly focused got Tara Amanda and Linda finishing with 50mm focal length. The 28-70mm had its use like a pistol and shotgun better for small distance low light.  His hands handled the camera with skill.  

For Amanda it was hard to escape the feeling that for once the team was off her back. The burden of stardom was being placed on more shoulders.  Senioritis was fueling desire but the pressure was off her. Tara was like a pitbull her pet covering her back. The first lap fierce commitment mingled with fun the pressure being off her was intoxicating as any cocktail she knew was consumed at parties by the football team. She was not as tense as she ran the first lap. The call for the guys of don't stop believing was being felt. They all seemed to be moving fast she could not help but even attempt to give chase to Troy. Linda was right beside her. She made the first lap "Way to go girls keep the pressure up!" The second lap with a surge she went to full burners the heck with fire each workout she was nearing hear last workout with the team and the fun had exploded as well by going hard she was making the workout eternal. Once again the call came don't stop believing. As she made the home stretch the five second lead had emerged as an audible click was heard. She trusted the person behind the cam though.

Kimber was aware of what was going on. She could sense the heat of the team the desire. Much of the intensity was the fire that would not die. The fire Stephen King had found in the valley of despair was joined by other fires from the same source. Even Amanda was as it seemed. Julie had commented that they were behind the curve on finesse yet they were learning from Tara and Amanda had talked some. Prayers were being answered. A common vision was exploding around Kimber. She heard the click.

French Fries had taken his start at the third 800. He was placed in a position where he could not back down. He also realized that backing down was treason. Tom was the Goalie he wanted to bore this spring. Dennis had command presence along with Ace. He was figuring out that the talent he had was not too valuable without the drive. He was at the nose of freight train that was growing faster and faster he could be a part of it and keep the pace up or the team would run over him. The No Surrender blaring did not mean too much to him when he heard it.

Stephen had to join the girls quickly the first group had taken off Stephen placed himself on the home stretch his hands four clicks of the cam had gotten guys and the top four of the girls varsity. There was now due to time constraints a seperation between girls doing their 800s and guys.  For Kimber it was clear that Stephen cared more about the workout but realized the photos were important. Stephen exploded hard at the lead she realized he had every intent. She smiled. Allison had come to the guys leading had restored order to the team. The music Scott was blaring that third 800 "No Surrender” was an anthem. He liked classic rock he was obviously selecting. Kimber’s legs were burning she also knew that even the slowest girl on JV could finish the top half of a varsity race. They girls were pushing themselves every bit as hard as the guys were. The guys though had laid down the riff.

Stephen had one more group the girls JV squad after a warm down quarter. Anna saw Stephen's small non existant butt disappear from view at a surprisingly fast race her first quarter. Her legs were already burning. The guys acting like real men had made this workout fun. The aggressive attitude of the boy’s team was making this more fun. It was inspiration. The second lap was all out she knew she would dry heave an end of it. Brandy and Allison were in close proximity and the idea of either of them backing down seemed foreign no way. This collection of freaks, geeks, preps and jocks was bound for glory she was going to help get it there.

The fourth 800 Stephen would run with the JV girls. He knew the pressure was on him. If anything he would have to be more brutal on himself in doing so he got another small series of photos the stars of the varsity team both boys and girls. Despite the growing fatique feel a familiar battle in him. Let’s face Anna and Lezlee were both physically attractive. His solution was explode like a homesick angel going 95% of max the first lap and balls to the wall the second lap.

Dennis said "It was good to be back." As he started on his fourth 800 he felt the dynamic of the team around him. His force of personalty was not needed to much as they headed for the line. The style in which the kick in the butt was different but it was real. Stephen had heard Coach Bob’s riff Dennis liked playing the tune. Now to was merely pushing his legs to the limit. He was simply adding fuel to raging fire. Tom, Micheal, Serg and Bo were already setting the aggressive tone. Coach Noel at the top of the track shouted "Keep it up!" He was less emotional but more forceful the then Coach Bob was down at the start finish line. It felt so great to be back at with the team as he heard his picture being taken. He would only have three more to go Dennis went to full power the second lap as the whole team surged as if on cue. The legs were on fire district championship was a smell they were hunting and as they got closer the scent filled their noses and only drove them faster.

Tara saw the guys rocketing in front of her. The testosterone on the way to the line for the fourth 800 of the night hung like a football locker room. Linda, Leisha, and Amanda had smiles on their face....Linda whispered scare Troy if you can. They grins on Linda's face and Amanda face had been real as well as their grimace of the grueling intensity they were putting themselves on. The guys were on a chase and now running was becoming fun. The result for Tara was she was if anything having to find a sixth gear. The sense of fun Amanda was carrying was now contagious. Yes, these were brutal 800s but having the responsibility of sole glory taken off them the female team was developing sense of fun. The first lap went hard. The second lap she ran all out she zoomed and on the home stretch came a beam of Troy. After it was done, Linda gave her a high five once Troy was out of sight. Linda shot Bo a glance he chuckled. He had been aware of what had gone one. The dare had been made. She was light headed her legs were burning. Stephen finished his and he barely got any recovery time he was joining them on the fifth 800.

Troy walked the lap and made the comment "Was that planned?" Amanda quipped since she had finished a second or two ahead of him "Yeah." Bo said "What has gotten into you girls?" Linda had a smile in her voice, “The very real possibility we will have to cheer you on at regionals.” Dennis said "You heard that Troy they are going to be a bit more vicious now." Troy chuckled it was obvious to all he was busting his butt. Tara still breathing hard commented "All in good fun." They took their pulse as JV finished. Stephen had a smaller orbit to walk. He gathered 150 still not quite out of the stratosphere....Coach Bob quipped "Stinks to be you Stephen but the extra 20 bpm will not hurt you ....that much!"

Amanda quickly disappeared then handed Coach Noel Scott something.  Amanda was as sentimental as Ace was.  She had her own surprise plan for the guys.  The song she told Noel Scott to play was symbolic and when was more symbolic.  Kimber was unaware of the plan.  11 years ago something was were going on at the stadium.  The song selected had become a theme for a football team that year.  Pat Benetar's Shadows Of the Night for the last one of the guys courtesy of the girls.  Amanda had taken the hint the last 800 would debut an theme song.  Amanda laughed it was potent symbol.   

Stephen had heard the challenge. Steven Ray looked at him Bo caught the glance "That's dangerous." Tom's comments "Only if you are a Mule and getting tired of Stephen coming from behind you the last 800 of a race then seeing small butt get smaller powerless to do anything about it." Go! Coach Bob shouted. The legs were still burning but the force of these 800s was simple. He wanted to keep the ability to pass whoever and keep them passed. Only way to do it hit burners and hold em there as lactic acid was building up the only way to keep the speed up was to use a greater and greater percentage of the diminishing max. Coach Noel shout, “Way to stay true to the blue.” The legs were already burning but hope and grief were burning hotter....Coach Bob shouted “Hoof and Heart” Kara’s passing passed through Stephen’s mind as the first turn was a dark one. Amidst the sweat a tear was in the eye. Each workout one was one less workout in his crosscountry career. Too many suicides he saw Coach Noel at the top. The brief eye contact,” Finish strong!” came the remark. Stephen was angry at himself for falling into the trap he had complained about others. Then again his cruel words at Clark high at a debate tournment could never be taken back and he finished the lighted home stretch Stephen Ray was behind him. He had managed to hold Thomas off.

Linda had mischief Troy and Stephen Ray though once again found passing gear. The launched like rockets off the finished line their Gringo faces had seen a little Rojo as Tara had closed. Yes her legs were burning. Yes her heart was racing but having the team back up her slap of her little brother was nice. Seeing believed. District glory which was the only thing that meant anything. District victory was looking more like an open meat truck in front of a pack of starving pit bulls. Last week a 12 point Buck was slaughtered at Schreiner like three legged cocker in front of a Pit. The guy's team now was hungry and focused.  As the guys were roaring in font of her it was clear that the venison was just an appetizer. The girls who had having their fill were more the happy to join in the chase. Coach Noel shouted "Way to Linda Amanda and Tara keep em scared keep straight." This was fun. She saw her first lap fade and keeping the chase she roared into the second lap of her fifth 800. She would use this at the Hinman course to secure a victory. Troy and Stephen were just ahead still scared still honest. Linda's legs were burning but the fun factor was there.  The high was realizing that the girls squad would not be alone at regional’s made them hurt less.

Raul had been humiliated and he was realizing the potential fury of his teammates. Ace was threatening to unleash his temper Bo, Thomas, Mike, Serg, Tom and Dennis would back him up and Stephen Ray and Troy had destroyed his excuse. His sister had laid him into in front of the team. It was clearly of her own choice.  He had talent but it was being made crystal clear to him that hanging on the talent not getting full use of it was not accepted in this group this year. The only thing he could do was to roar out in front and hold the most blistering pace he could get away with lest Bo pass him up. He was not about to be passed this workout. Coach Noel was cheering on, “Way to push it Raul earn the press.” It was a positive word on what was desired for him. The music had stopped. He was hurting it was obvious everyone else was but they were charging with a ferocity he had never seen. He saw the straight away looming ahead no retreat he was not going to be permitted surrender the only thing that would satisfy this crowd would be 100 yards of empty space between him and the next runner at district. Coach Bob shouted "Yeah that’s using your talent!"  The positive tone meant he had left the dog house by going all out joining the soreness of those around him. He began his second lap of his of his fifth 800. His legs had fire in them but as Julie shouted as he whizzed by her on her walk lap he realized the cheer was for him. He finished the turn and was on the back stretch Coach Noel was ahead "Dig deep Raul" he turned on the home stretch. He was still wondering why the team dug into him when he was the fastest man on the team. He carried the speed through the line.

A few seconds later Bo was by him "That will work. Who knows have you thought of making it to state?" Raul had never entertained the idea. Dennis spelled it out "Unused talent is an irritation to those who do not have the talent. Ace gets respect because since a freshman he goes balls to the wall and if he fails to do anything less then his best he feels apologizes...he may be mean but he loves this team. If you got talent but use less then what you got you do not get respect." Stephen Ray still very winded "That’s more like it" The group cleared out of the way for number 5 and the last 800 for the JV and the slower varsity girls. They cheered on their sisters of sweat. Tom's voice was loud. As Julie heard it she decided she would cheer her teammates on the last 2 800s for them. The whole team would do crunches together. The guys and four girls made to the start finish line keeping things wide for the last lap.

Kimber, Kathrine, Julie, and Pearson had barely let their heart rates come down to 160 Kimber saw the guys and the girls go to the line she lead the way. Kimber looked at Coach Bob he replied "Go right on ahead last half for the girls guys you got one more after this." He realized how serious the girls were. Coach Noel Scott saw in a distance what was going and could not wipe the smile off his face. The Jesus freaks were quietly asserting authority over the team. He heard the shout go.

Kimber’s legs were burning. Julies were too. Kathrine had been caught up in the dare. Leisha was just ahead. Raul was running like a mad man Aero was likewise hoofing it. The seniors were showing their leadership and were going leave their mark. Coach Noel Saw Raul run by "That's it.” He was going to encourage whatever happened it had been effective. Stephen King had shown some restraint. Dennis was right behind Bo. Serg followed with Tom. Stephen was holding off Thomas and Mike was just narrowly ahead of him. Troy and Stephen were valiantly trying to hold off the girls picking up rear. In the explosive blend of personalities Kimber was showing you can be fierce yet gentle. Amanda still had a smile on her face despite the fact her legs were burning. As they first lap left him with space behind the cheer he could relax he knew the fate of the team. He was trusting Stephen and the alliance between Tara, Julie and Kimber was paying dividends. Kimber had demonstrated her faith by initiating. Raul before he could think too much was back at him. Raul way to use your talent was the words selected to cheer. Coach Noel Scott knew that words could heal and his tone was meant to do so. She saw Stephen still ahead of Mike with a look that he would assault the gates of hell with a squirt gun on his face "Set the Tone Ace!" The sixth 800 had been run.

Coach Bob announced "Girls do your crunches before you leave the guys got one more 800" It was clear that Kimber and the rest of the women had every intention of cheering the guys on their last 800. Coach Bob's smile was visible as the guys jogged a lap. Coach Noel Scott got Bruce Springsteen''s No Surrencer but then Amanda was with her own CD with a track number.  Noel Scott had reason to trust her. 

Dennis jogging the lap had said, “Let’s make the last one count guys.” It was all that needed to be said as they came around. Coach Bob allowed them to wait till their hear rate was 120,140 range once the heart rate had gotten to that point. The group walked the line.

Coach Noel Scott hit the Play Button. The Song was "Shadows Of the the Night."  Amanda’s Cook was set in motion as Pat Benetar’s voice rung out.  Pat Benatar’s voice soaring up an octave contained the hope of the girl’s varsity to be co stars at district.    They waited Coach Bob wanted to play this out to time the 800 near the center. With the crash of drums guitar and key board Coach Bob shouted Go. He looked at Amanda with a grin on his face. Kimber made the comment “Good one.”  Amanda replied "The Revolutionary is calling for a return to glory....the boys know."  The song referenced a year that won her father fame. “Go” Coach Bob Shouted.

The boys took off with all the hesitation of a rattle snake striking. A song of past football glory circa 1982.  The first verse exploded into a chorus with Bo chasing Raul to the start finish the first quarter Ace was riding the butt of Thomas and Mike who were handling the two laps their own dare. The cheers of the Kimber, Amanda, Julie, Leisha, Linda, Anna and Lezlee added to the fury. They were torn between the dare that girls had thrown down and the Dentonite who bled Unicorn blue. The second lap began with lactic acid building up in the legs the voice Pat Benetar the key boards and furious guitar echoed in Bo’s and Dennis’s head reminders of another glory run another dare an improbable set of events a reckless dare from the years before and the girls calling to the boys be men! 11 years later no translation was needed.  Emotional intensity mentally their foot remained on the floor. Serg understood courage daring and reckless dream surged through him. Memories of past Unicorn glory were burning bright.  Ace felt the fire in the legs Ray and Troy were behind him he had closed in Thomas and the drag race began down the home stretch as the voice surged.

Amanda, Kimber and Linda looked at each other a huge smile. Ace had the dream. Raul had told Linda about the dares and how Stephen had talked about district glory. Amanda had effectively guarded the throttle on the guy’s team that had been pushed to the forward stop and made sure it had stayed it in place. Coach Bob was left to watch the Mach Meter go past 2 while vertical speed indicator remained pegged near the max rate of climb.  Coach Bob shot a look at Amanda she said "Ace made me do it."  A chuckle was heard.  Kimber spoke of the song's significance to Tara.  She made it clear that use of the song's symbolic effect in Unicorn land was welcome.  Amanda was happy.   

The Exceed bucket was emptied. The song had been a declaration. Amidst the discussion Raul found himself in the position where it was run fast run hard be clean or be run over. Serg was smiling he thanked Amanda Cook for the trip down memory lane. Ace was beaming. As they did crunches and pushups the fatique hit the last of the Exceed was consumed but as they were coming down from the emotional high there was a feeling.

Ace walked to the parking lot near Dennis. Dennis said "Ace good workout." Stephen King replied "Good leadership." Tom replied "We are going to finish this season as seniors and as a Team." Bo in the background barked "You got that right." Thomas and Mike were approaching and heard the whole conversation Serg said "Unida" translated united.  Bo said "You got that right we go out with gold."  They drove off to their homes. They were tired they were slept the sleep of comraderie and loyalty.  Exhaustion and joy were an invite for sleep for Ace how easy it came was surprising.


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