Book 2 Chapter 6 section 5 The race and Aftermath Tales of Dead Armadillo a Novel about Crosscountry Running And New Braunfels Texas early 1990s by Esteban Erik Stipnieks all rights reserved

 

 

The morning brought the end of the season for the seniors that much closer. Tom was feeling the end coming. As ace arrived he saw Stephen Ray "Enjoy it this year come next fall it all be gone." Stephen Ray looked confused.  Ace looked at him "You will understand your senior year."  The voice held grief. The dirge was there.

Al was a little tired when drove to the field house but he was happy about the victory. He met with Coach Bob who directed him on mixing the Exceed. Coach Noel Scott had heard and said "At least you are going to learn about another side of Unicorn Athletics." Tom decided to help and got the mixing done they also got the ice and the ointment incase it would be needed for the meet that day. Coach Bob was now focusing on the potential for injury. He had ridden the team about avoiding shin splits he had directed many on strengthening the front part of the lower leg.  As district victory looked more certain Coach Bob was thinking more like a helicopter pilot looking for things that would go wrong.  He was also surprised things were not. 

The bus ride was about 30 minutes Loop 337 off the Edwards Plateau and onto the coastal plains of Texas. Tom and Ace comm-ented about how things were fading. The guys JV would run first and girls JV would run next. The guy’s varsity race was the last one. Dennis asked, "How does it feel to be back here?" Ace responded, "I missed the land." Ace realizing Dennis's  confusion quickly described why.  It was a surprising statement. Ace was listening to Hot house flowers. Dennis was listening to Metallica, Amanda was listening to Garth Brooks, Bo was enjoying Body Count, Aero and Raul were listening to the Chronic as the bus drove the distance.

Coach Bob got to the front of the bus "Ok we are closing in on district this meet is a test how we will do. I want you to run hard but don't do anything stupid run a smart race I would rather you lose a place or two and not be injured then you secure a victory and ruin district. Run hard run smart French fries help the football player that volunteered to help us with the ice and water. "The walk from the bus to the area that the team was gathered was simple. It was also short since the parking lot was big and the area that people would gather in is small.

The group found a shelter underneath a couple oaks in plant boxes at the Seguin arena. Maps would soon be on the way. Once they came Ace reviewed it Dennis and Bo. The course had not changed. The goal was to relax till the start of the race instead of walk the course. The course had not changed and Ace had a detailed memory of it from his freshman year. He had taunted Heights that race beaten a couple of their runners. 

Kimber walked the girls course with Tara. She pointed out some of the features it was simple run one mile out run one mile back in. It did have some harsh turns early on then a long rolling loop around a golf course.

Thomas was feeling stronger now that alcohol had been removed from his life. He wanted to be back on Varsity. He drank some fluids and waited to start the race. He wanted to be on the regional bound team. The guys went with the JV girls and to cheer on the start of the race. Mike the previous year had made a comment how it was odd for the whole team to be so supportive of the other units. Two years had taught him that Thomas had known no other ways individual units of the team hung together in his old high school.  Only now were elements of the team were seen eating lunch together.  While they were personal rivalries on the team conflicts were all always around the team nonetheless acted as a unit at meets and practices.

Anna had hidden the touch of sadness as she warmed up. She loved running she loved the crowd. The guy’s new fire had made her senior year fun. Now with each meet it was coming close to the end of her career. That jacked up her intensity level. She flirted with people but did not drink her party girl image was only partially true.  As the starter gave his instructions, it was now time to go.

The wipe out happened right in front of her she went hard to the right and stopped almost instantly. It was hard right and stop! The second bang meant it was a short walk back to the line. Anna had her heart beating.

The restart was without incident Anna had a good start even though she legs had a bit more lactic acid in her legs. She was in the middle of the large mass of runners by the rodeo venue. The mass was thinning as they made a turn on the street.  Their were houses on one side the golf course on the other. She was running at decent rate above the lactic acid threshold but not by much.  She knew the razors margin between bravery and stupidity she was shy of that line right now. As she made the turn on the road that had river, access on one side the golf course on the other she intended to cross the line...after the first mile. Coach Bob shouted way to go Anna. He saw a sly grin on her face.  It meant things were interesting.  She was passing more then she was being passed. This was a big meet and she was forced to make a couple passes on the outside some of the girls were not being too smart she took advantage she saw the mile marker coming ahead. She made two passes and got passed once. She was stout muscular woman 110 5'2. She used it to make a tight turn. At that point, she was going to accelerate, the slight fire in her legs would be added to quickly in the next 6 minutes 10 seconds. Through the rounded bumps on the big circle, Anna ran closing on a couple district rivals making a series of passes visibly faster and only going to accelerate more. By running harder her time on the course was diminishing but the race was going to burn itself deeper onto her memory. Coach Noel Scott saw her as she turned the corner "Final season!" The words were a statement of fact. She would cover the last 200 yards at full speed. The straight away to the rodeo arena Anna was passing people with force she was at the top 10th of the race with a bunch of other Unicorns. The turn straight and turn of the Rodeo arena was handled by her like a pittbull grabbing a hindquarter of a calf. Then she saw the line it was a Tivy antler she passed in the final 10 yards of the race. She wanted to puke and once passed the line a bit of exceed with stomach acid hit the asphalt...so be it. Albert seemed surprised. Anna smiled at him "Ya think I just look pretty" she asked.   

There was more then a little eccentricity on the JV girls beyond Anna.  Allison Ray had found it amazing that guys had started believing. She walked to the line this would be her last time on the course. Brandy was with her. The two juniors shared a continued kinship. Allison did not need to much to get motivated. She was fired up and under control as the instructions were received. bang the gun went off then a split second later a girl from Smithson valley had road rash as she got tangled up some one had gotten to close and a heel hit a shin and she fell to the asphalt.

Thank goodness, it was early. Allison took the 10 yard back to the start line. She had managed to stay out of trouble. The restart occurred the 100-yard stretch was short and the then came a left turn no girl had lost it on a speed bump that the girls all had to deal with. Allison knew she did not have much talent but used her experience to do well. She was in the middle part of the race quickly as she avoided running an true to the course line.  She snagged a pass or two she we would have gotten otherwise. Early in the race, she was patient she was just above the lactic threshold but had now desire to blast through it as she made the turn behind the golf course. Her mind was looking ahead threading her way through traffic. The hills were rolling small under five feet glorified humps. For a Unicorn they were laughable.  Allison adjusted form almost without thought, which helped her get a pass or two. She made the turn far from being bored with this course she actually liked it a familiar test. She knew every second seemed to take longer she was running a decent line making a pass as availed itself to the half way point in the race. She continued picking her very darting using a bit of her surges, she allowed herself on the inside of black asphalt. She snagged a couple seconds using a slight form advantage on the hill.  She could also see the halfway point in the race is passed occasionally make other passes. Coach Bob was shouting, "Way to run smart Allison keep it up." She made the turn at the point as she did she accelerated her legs had the effects of the surges on them but they were not that bad she was hot and sweaty and the eyes had been stung again with the flow of sweat off her black hair she saw Tivy and Heights ahead. It was time to go harder she went further beyond lactic acid threshold and began a decent rate of closure the race was half over she was also aware of her position relative to everyone one else. Slowly methodically she was gaining Coach Noel Scott cheered her on. She made the turn and realized it would be a push but it was well worth it she made her pass on the two runners from Heights. She passed a couple other girls and then within 200 yards of the finish line she was now really close to the Tivy girls the cheering of her team she made the pass with 10 yards to spare.

She was given Exceed by the conscripted football player she drank the liquid and got a laugh at what happened to him. Her legs were two blow torches below her hips. There was not a dry inch of her body she was soaked with sweat. Amanda smiled and gave her teammate a high five "Well done!" The two girls went to near the starting line her brother was going to be running next. She would find the strength the cheer the people on the most meaningless race for the Unicorns of that day.

Thomas had a goal for the race he did not tell anybody but he was going to be on varsity. He noticed how strong he felt and was kind upset at himself for putting himself in the position. He was wondering now if the parties had been worth it during crosscountry even if the sex had been fun. His two previous seasons had helped he went to the line after he warmed up determined. He listened to the starter's instructions and then it began. Thomas's start was hard. It put him ahead of the traffic at a cost. As the 100 yards by the rodeo arena, he finessed it on the pacing though his line was still somewhat sloppy. He was at a five forty mile pace which avoided being much of the re-passes but it was ahead of blob behind him allowing him a better position on the course it was also slow enough to reduce the lactic acid accumulation. He was now on the long backstretch of the street that had been blocked off he crested and cruised a couple of the gentle bumps. He saw the mile marker coming up. 5:43 he was on target. He was passed but made a couple other passes. He was happy with his pace no signs of a side stitch. He could see around the bend and saw the halfway point of the race coming up. The two and a half minutes he got a pass on a couple district rivals not that, it mattered the real race was going to be on times between him and Ace. He made the turn hard on the inside. Thomas's strength was showing. Coach Bob was shouting "Yeah that's it!" He was nearing two-mile mark he picked up as he got nearer the point. 10:20 was next time. It was not time to push things harder. Thomas wanted to be on varsity when they were regional bound. He accelerated. Coach Noel Scott was shouting, “Yeah that’s it!” The sound filled his ears the turn came to come back to coliseum it was now time to roar. Thomas decided to throw caution to the wind he had played it conservative long enough aside as he was going to go for a good time. The latent talent in him exploded he now resembled the Model A in the song Hot Rod Lincoln passing people as they were standing still. He made a whole collection of passes 5:30 last mile and top 10 place. The last one was a ranger who did not know. What the heck! Thomas passed him with less then a yard to go. Dennis handed him exceed.

Leisha was warming up feeling a connection to her past had been snapped. She put it together. Something had happened to the town she grew up in that its inhabitants were only aware of. Tara and Ace were different. She had heard of it but not processed it all.  Now it was the guys who were making a run to varsity. She was familiar with runner high and she wanted victory for the girls a gold medal had soothing qualities. The gun went off she tucked in close to Tara as the four girls were firmly at front of the race no restart. She focused on the task at hand not letting Tara get to far ahead and hoping she was not too far beyond the lactic acid threshold so she could up the blistering pace the whole two miles. She was going to hang close while watching the race line. She ran a slicker line then Tara had selected through the section of the rodeo arena its short chute and the straight away before the bow of the course. She was already covered with sweat. The speed work the distance all seemed to be paying out she felt strong Coach Bob was surprised "Way to go girls!" They turned to the long curved section of the course. The dare had been countered by another dare. The burden of fame shared by the people had shaved a second or two off her teammates and her. No passing just running smart and praying nothing bad would happen. Amanda went wide Linda went tight Tara went tight and Leisha went even tighter on the turn. She heard her time smokin she thought now could she hold up Amanda and Linda were five seconds a hold of her. Coach Noel Scott had a smile "Yeah your brother would be proud of you." He hit a button yet pride was a powerful thing her legs were burning but she was not going to back off the rocket ship. The boys varsity had made an effort to cheer them on and had smiles on their faces seeing the dominance of the girls squad. She made the turn to closing yeah the legs were tiring she soaked she could feel a side stitch yet she was driving harder. She ran hard through the section of the rodeo arena then to the finish line. She looked at her time a personal best. Coach Bob had made it back he had a smile on his face as she was drinking exceed.

For the blond senior the race was different expirence.   As the race began Amanda felt calm for once, the race was going to be a bit more bitter but also sweet. Linda was beside her as the two took off. This was her last time on this course as an athlete. She made left turn by the rodeo arena then a right. Amanda was at the front of the race mindful of her pace. The race was young and she dare not do anything stupid. The straight way with the neighborhood on one side went smoothly. Coach Bob cheered way to go Amanda! Then came the left turn on the course. Her pace was generating some lactic but not enough to be of threat. Linda was behind her not by much she could hear Linda’s footsteps in addition to her own. The humps of the various sections of the course were no longer any interest to Amanda quite simply put she reacted without thought to them. She had cut her teeth on terrain far worse terrain.  She had been on this course three times before.  The section of Golf course from the Wursthalle to Panther Canyon was more demanding. She was closing in on the mile mark as she heard her time it was on profile she went wider then Linda but accelerated just a hair faster her teammate. Coach Noel was cheering her on keep it smooth keep it aggressive. She was now confident to increase the rate of lactic acid fermentation in in her sweat soaked body. She was determined to run hard and smart she hated herself for making a couple minor mistakes but she was still leading this race. She made the big wide turn with the humps her legs were now burning her eyes now stinging but she was in the home stretch and as she made the turn it was all out she heard Coach Bob basically telling her back was clear but now this was for fun. Why not do a personal best time? The guys were going to join her at regional’s and their was a good shot that guys would get the victory. This was fun as she drove herself through chute turns by the rodeo arena and finally to the finish line. Stephen Ray had Exceed waiting for her.

It was now time for the guys to shine. Ace knew his role do not do anything stupid and be opportunistic he had listened to "Sorrow" his preparations for the race had been methodical. The guys had enjoyed the girls victory. It was now their turn to shine the warm up had been done according to tried and true ritual for most of the guys. Ace had his dour face it was clear he was going to do best he could. Serg had looked at him in the silence was understanding between Bo, Tom, Dennis, Serg and Ace. Raul and Aero could feel the pressure they were going to lead but they dare not do anything stupid. The starter gave his instructions then the gun went off.

Bo warmed up he had been the star of the guy's side now he was about to be eclipsed by two other runners. The two other runners had given hope. Now the fact the star of the team had cleaned up his act meant that Raul could be every bit the force as his sister was. If it meant a trip to San Antonio and UTSA Bo was more accepting of the fact. He was accepting if losing his star status meant a trip to regional’s he was willing to do it. Ace had been handed a varsity slot on a silver platter yet he rejected it now it was time for Bo to swallow his pride. It was time for the instructions to be given his time as a crosscountry runner in high school was fading fast.

The gun went off Bo accelerated quickly He was in the top of the pack but he was not out of traffic. Bo saw Raul and French fries further ahead...as he made his way by the rodeo arena and then down the street. French Fries (Aero) had learned him and Raul were about fifth place and Bo saw about five other runners between him and French Fries. Bo was well aware of his pace and he was going to hold it there he was not eager for a pass as he made his way around the turn that put him on the road that went by the golf course.

Coach Bob’s voice filled his ears "Bo keep running smart.” The mile marker was getting closer as he was hot. The race was going the way he wanted it to go. He heard his time 5:10 he was not gaining too much but he was not losing any ground. He could see Raul and Aero just ahead making a couple moves. He hoped they would not burn themselves out. The 800 yards between the mile marker were going according to planned. The time was steady 2 minutes and 35 seconds he covered the distance he was a distance beyond the lactic acid threshold but he was not roaring too far beyond it. His short lean frame made the turn as the short small Aero and Raul did tight inside wasting energy but saving the distance. As he made this turn he accelerated some. Bo saw district rivals ahead and his goal was to pass them once and for all. He slowly started making his passes he got a Tivy runner at the two mile mark 10:15 not bad at all Bo kept the pace he would add some more speed the home stretch a runner from Alamo heights and a runner from Canyon was a head. Coach Noel Scott shouted way to run hard and smart. There was little gained on form on the humps. Stupid mistakes were not made at this level. He felt the need to accelerate just a hair he continued to gain he passed the lead runner from Alamo Heights as he began the turn now it was time to go harder. He made the turn to the near homestretch hew as not going full bore he made the pass. Bo's legs were burning his heart was pounding in his chest. He was now running at a full sprint as he saw the line ahead. He had not been repassed.

Ace knew better he had been doing prehabs still and as the crowd smoked him the first hundred yards he was still going to run his race. The black asphalt and clear skies had jacked up the heat. As he made his way near dead last by the rodeo arena he saw his first victim he made the pass quickly he made others. He saw more passes to make as he was turning down the humpy section of the round course. The trees that now dominated the course were to make things more pleasant. It was simple keep out of trouble the first mile. The legs were warmed up and things seemed to be going according to plan. Ace was making passes. Sweat warm legs were on Ace's mind his reaction to the course was instinctual. The first mile marker was ahead 5:41. In short things were going to plan. Coach Bob shouted "Way to run it smart keep getting aggressive." Stephen was rapidly approaching the halfway point in the race and he was feeling a side stitch coming on. Two sections of abdominal muscles on opposite sides of the belly were slowly but noticeably beginning to cramp up. He saw the halfway point and went wide a bit of knee savings. As the side stitch developed from two sides he was tight he immediately started belly breathing trying to keep it at bay. That required more mental concentration as he was trying to delay and possibly reverse the process. The knee was only mildly annoying but it would not be a factor of the rest of the race. His race plan was going down in flames. He was still at 12 minute two mile. Coach Noel sat it happening. Stephen was now hoping to stay out of trouble the last mile this was getting ugly but he dug he wanted the team to win so with a construction band tightening across his belly he was still fighting it was just that the course seemed long even with handling the bumps with good form. The heck with the foot deep constriction band across his stomach he surged hard. Coach Bob knew it he saw the valor of the fight and cheered it. Ace was feeling hopeless but determined to go down swinging he crossed the line in visible pain.

Ace went to Thomas and Mike he smiled "Well I guess you will be varsity at district." Dennis looked at Ace "Yeah but you were the kick that is aiming us at regional." The team was together AManda smiled. Ace had seen Thomas and Mike bust their butt on those runs. He looked at them "Hey if it secures district glory I am last to complain.” Coach Bob replied, “You will be needed as an alternate.” Stephen nodded. The awards ceremony came. Unicorn JV girls had won, Girls Varsity had won and boys Varsity had won. Each group had a good time collecting their hardware. Stephen King's parents were proud of him. The boy’s team's parents were enjoying the fact they were getting gold. The team with the T-shirts boarded the bus headed for Clear Springs.

Tara decided to sit next to Ace. Dennis was in front of him and Tom sat across from him. Ace was irritated and was trying to figure out what he had done to induce the cramp...its origins in reality had been that night before. His valiant effort though of a surge held off one runner making the difference. Tara was smiling in her role as bit player.   Ace was congratulatory of her. French Fries and Raul were enjoying their star status on the bus as it drove to Clear Springs. Coach Bob had contacted Clear Springs the night before. They were having a special and he told Coach Noel Scott to drive there. They were expecting the team after the meet.

Coach Bob as Coach Noel drove the bus realized another fall Saturday and the guys and girls were now a dominant force. Ace was now bound for JV but he had earned the letter.   Coach Bob sensed while Ace did not respect him the love for him and team was real.  Thomas and Mike had gotten off their butts and acted hungry. Troy and Stephen Ray had been caught up in the storm that had developed. Dominance looked within reach but it would involve sacrifice the hunger had caught and with each passing meet the team was hungrier each gold medal was a bite of meat and far from settling the appetite the taste had only heightened it. He glanced at the girls times they had much to his surprise gotten faster. He talked to Amanda about it. She did have the senior emotionalism about the end of her high school crosscountry career but with it was the ease of not having to be the star.

The hostess heard the bus pull into the gravel parking lot and the restaurant swung into action they had a place for the team on the back side of the old wooden building that resembled a hangar. Every runner ordered the special and a couple pitchers of Iced T were ordered. French Fries was starting to realize why he was important. Raul had noticed the shift the attitude of the girl’s team. They were enjoying the fact they were no longer in the lime light alone. They were not the opening band yet their were not the main attraction anymore. The Unicorn crosscountry team was now a double bill. Even with the bobble both teams bought home Gold over their rivals.  The shift had been noticeable. The story on him was going to be him and French Fries were dubbed the two fast freshman. There was many catfish that was fried beans, hush puppies and tartar sauce all rounded out the meal. Tara asked about the quality of food. Ace had ordered a bowl of gumbo before his meal. As the first bite of the gumbo hit his mouth the expression was a man at home.  The fire the flavor Ace had missed it.  It was the taste of home.  It was great to taste it again.  Al said "Man you act as if?" Ace replied it took 2 years away to understand what is wrong and love what is right about this place. As the catfish was served Coach Noel Scott commented this is a good place. Amanda said, "It’s a tradition in this area." Tara replied "It’s a good thing I am on the team I would have missed it otherwise." The catfish was eaten with relish.  The corn battered fish was great especially covered with Tartar sauce.  Coach Noel Scott was enjoying. He had been so busy with the move that being an assistant coach had clued him in on a couple local restaurants. The meet had been discussed and the team thought about the lazy hazy crazy Saturday again. Dennis who heard and seen the dynamic break out while he had been injured simply said "We win district I am giving you my medal."

Sunday came Amanda had decided to continue to learn what made Ace tick. Tara had been challenged. Pete one of the church elders probed. Amanda found it odd she was finding out more about Clark locker room and the relationship dynamic in that football team. The debauchery did not seem that far removed from New Braunfels high it was becoming a stunning revelation. The football teams were not that different. The truths from the pulpit were pretty close to what she had been hearing except for fallen nature of man, which was emphasized with greater clarity there. She was coming face to face with realities and as they were applied before her eye. Tara would talk to her dad afterwards. Stephen King was gathering strength feeling safe in the church. His speech and tone changed. During Sunday school he did far less talking and far more listening. During the sermon, he was giving his full attention the hyper Okie pastor.

After church Amanda called her old, PE teacher had been a fan. He was happy to see her. The two talked… She talked about her status how time was running her senior year. He processed it all and he finally said "Ace is on your side he has seen something and been transformed after district bring him around I want to pin the medal on him." He was encouraging wondering why he was alive grieving at what was developing in New Braunfels but realizing that God had provided another generation of leaders for the team. He had learned to love and respect Coach West as they talked Unicorn football and football overall. Amanda left and she would attend evening service at first Baptist.

 

 

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