Book 2 Chapter 8 Section 1 Conspiracy To Get Greatness l Tales of Dead Armadillo the story of one Crosscountry Team 1993 and the Town of New Braunfels Esteban Erik Stipnieks all Rights Reserved.

 

Amanda was feeling emotion as she made it to her first period class. She was happy. She could also feel hints of sadness that her high school crosscountry career was ending. Bo caught Ace in the hall and made the comment "Great looking hardware and nice jacket." After first period ended Dennis made it clear "We get first you are getting my medal." He said it as a football player with a tone that had don't dare disagree with him. He was feeling emotional sad that one aspect of his life was ending but also aware the potential was very real he was going out on top. Dennis had grown up hunting and fishing...while not a believer in Christ he had moral compass that was baptized and the values even though he was not a virgin and drank heavily off season he recognized what had happened on the team.  He had tasted the potential for glory and he wanted it.   He felt the fiery core of the team despite the betrayal of Special needed something for the real hope of taking district. He knew that Ace was wearing the JROTC colors and had to get a teammate in trouble. That day Stephen King was informed he was free Friday night. They had enough for yearbook and Coach West did not want the team photographed that night. He was assigned photo duties of the crosscountry team...district. There would be an additional photographer for Ace's race. The announcements mentioned the team's near sweep of the Boerne meet a week before district.  The sweep was a good sign.

Coach Bob during lunch watched Serg the oddball eat with the Jesus freaks. He had been basking in the glory of what had been happening. Raul had been ambushed by older herd bulls and his sister. Aero who was flaky but he had learned things. The result was the boys teams that had not lived up to their talent were suddenly finally running on all cylinders. Ace had made a habit of visiting him when he was in Denton. He trusted Stephen with info not available to most of the team. His arrival had been unexpected. The very thing he had ranted about Ace had fixed the freshman were talented but it was Ace who had taken the conversation to heart. Now they were looking at district. Serg felt the shift in leadership of the team.  He was happy now believing a dream.  He smiled. No the team was not directly in his control he did not care. The team had taken hold. The changes Ace's mom were bringing seemed to be good. The New Braunfels he at times mocked was dealing with things finally. It was going to be a workout. Ace said hello. As he did,” Remember what your other teammates did to Allen do not let it happen to us we are going to be running an Eden Home.” Ace replied, “Yes sir.” He then said "Remember what I told your Jr year when you ran with us that December?"  That had not been touched on.  Ace confessed, "It never left my mind this year." Coach Bob smiled a rare smile.  It was then he realized Noel and Ace had not seized control of his team the climb and target had been programmed in the bird by him after all.  He had just put it in auto pilot unknowingly.  "Thanks." Ace said "Thank Dennis thanks Bo." The bell rang ending lunch. The crosscountry team for the most part met in the science classroom. Coach Bob handed out the race reports for each runner. He looked "I want solid effort next three days from each of you." He continued "I want you guys eating well getting rest this week....Thursday and Friday do not do anything stupid we can take district this year its our home course we got the talent be smart. Eden home for the guys Encino for all the girls."

Once in the locker room it was out of jeans to shorts and the Air Pegusus. The racing shoes were selected instead of the heavier Air Max which Ace traditionally trained in.  The total time had been two seconds separating Ace from Thomas but it had been enough. Coach Bob said "You know Thomas if Ace finishes the run ahead of you today I might be inclined to put him on Varsity." Bo quipped "No pressure on this training run." Ace grinned. He knew Thomas was faster then him now.  Ace suspected Thomas had dried out.  Ace had a goofy look on his face and whipped out his demon voice: “We will not be Allened this year....we will not be Allened.” They had changed and Coach Bob announced he was going to be following the team on the run.

The group headed out. For Ace he accepted JV but he was going to apply the heat his coach wanted him to. He knew his role. He left the locker room early. Tom asked, “You think you can make it on Varsity?” Stephen King replied "Not if Thomas tries." Tom smiled. "A bird told me you talked to Coach at lunch." Ace replied "Yep." They crossed the street and walked across the football field. Tom asked, “So you are going to run like you mean it to make sure we do not get Allened.” Ace responded, "You know me too well." He then grinned, "Who knows maybe I might pass you." Ace was entertaining the idea seriously and would not mind being on Varsity.  Ace looked it no loss if he made his best effort.  Tales he won heads mediocrity lost.  If he beat Thomas he would get on varsity if he lost Thomas would get a really good workout that was needed.  Lovely win win situation. 

Coach Bob went into the training room to be sure Coach Noel was mixing the Exceed he was going to run and Eden Home he asked Coach Noel to be keep track of when the guys left and when they returned. Coach Bob said, "I have Ace running rear guard if Thomas or Mike get lazy Ace is running Varsity." Coach Noel saw what was going on "Giving him a chance he has earned?" Coach Bob said, "I almost hope he passes Thomas but since he has gone sober I doubt it." With it being a real race Coach Bob emerged and started the guys off.  Both men knew who got credit on Thomas going sober.   Both men were rooting for Ace.

Thomas had just narrowly gotten on varsity. He knew Ace who had long ago earned the reputation of having a pair of balls so big that he needed a wheelbarrow to carry them. They stretched with the tension just below the surface. Soon the defacto race was about to start. Everybody on the team knew what was going on. Bo looked at French Fries and Raul they wanted to be away from the mess. They were told to start.

Ace did on one level resented having to actually think during a training run. Yet that resentment was more then negated by the realization the final climb to district glory was now in his hand.  The stick, pedals and throttles of the team felt great in his hands and feet.  He had planned to do a testosterone express: just try to hang with the faster people then slowly fade but scare the crap out them. Now he actually had to utilize race strategy. The race line was simple use the hill down the open gate across the football field as Coach Noel watched the line slice across the parking lot in a perfectly straight line. The hill spared the harsher acelleration and trip deep beyond the lactic acid threshold.

Once the start was called Thomas realized Ace was serious he did not launch like he did an earlier run he was going to play this out. Thomas had a good start and a good lead but he knew Ace was not only going to run hard but run the smartest. The two both knew this run. The fact that Ace was not breathing down his neck or parallel to him chilled him.

Ace made the turn Thomas was now 20 yards ahead. Ace notched up the speed just a hair. The rate of the closure had frozen as they finished on Ohio and began the turn onto California. He was maintaining a position and he was not too far above the Lactic Acid Threshold. He was going to be calm and as the turn came on California; his mind was to use the slight down angle of the road to grab some speed.

Thomas as leading he did not take things for granted he was running a good clip he wanted a lead. He also knew that he could not get too far beyond the Lactic Acid threshold. He turned onto California. He extended just a bit of stride taking a hair of speed off the hill. He knew full well that Ace was going to be using this. Tom was up ahead. Thomas hoped he would hear the foot steps.

The long stretch of California was not so much a drag strip but a place where a simple strategy was occurring....do nothing stupid for Ace. He watched Thomas 20 yards ahead as the continued to run down California. As Tom was forced to increase his speed along with Mike Ace cracked a grin. French Fries, Bo and Raul had already found a way clear of this mess they took off like bats out of hell. This was working quite well. There was a chess match at 5:20 mile being played out.

The fact that Ace was lurking scared Thomas he knew he was not that far behind he looked back and noticed no net gain no net loss he had matched speed. For Thomas it was good news as he continued down California. He realized he would have to handle this like a meet. Ace was clearly in that mindset and was going to attempt to run the three miles of Eden Home as if it were his best meet. He saw Lakeview Blvd and he made the turn tight. He wanted 3 miles and three miles only. He was going to keep the pace where it was as he briefly saw Ace neither having gained on him or lost.

Mike had heard the footsteps behind him. If Coach Bob wanted to make sure, no one would slack on this workout his ploy for the varsity was working. The second Ace did not act the fool in trying to keep up with the lead pack the realization that a very real race would occur. Mike wanted to stay clear of the race what was developing. He heard Thomas close in a bit and he was forced to kick up a notch not wanting to be caught up slightly slower people trying to run harder. Tom was just ahead when he heard THomas come up he too sped up just a notch to avoid the race that was coming down California between two smart runners one of them with a reputation for big balls in practice now running like he did in a race which made dry ice seemed hot in comparison. He sensed that the return leg from Eden Home would have to be run fast.

Coach Bob took off realizing he would only get to see the tail end of the race play out he prepared himself to follow it as closely as he could. That might mean a hard 180 off California and a kick back Ohio and running a near personal best mile in the process. He took off the runs he did routinely at a bit of a faster clip. He wanted to see what was happening.

Ace once passed the turn started working on reeling in Thomas. Thomas did not know it. He intended to close somewhat on Lakeview he notched a bit of speed and slowly started working a small rate of closure. Slowly he worked it he grabbed more ground on the dip then the uphill. He was tiring but he was not going to back off. By the time he was on the downhill leg, which he ran boldly less then a 3 second gap existed. Thomas looked surprised.

Thomas ran the long stretch of Lakeview he was unaware of what was going on behind him. He did his best to grab some speed on the downhill then uphill section then downhill to the sign. When he saw Ace, he was surprised at the point it was time for a combination of speed and courage. The thought horrified him. Mike had seen the fact Ace had gained the ground. He accelerated Tom hearing him like wise he had seen what was going on. Bo and his group had gotten clear of it.

Ace got close to Thomas and Thomas accelerated down lakeview but the hill allowed Ace to maintain position and the dip allowed Ace to pull out ahead. Ace was now not about to give up the position he went hard and realized he was far enough into this to make things really interesting. The long level straight away loomed ahead and the two ran beside each other over the gravel shoulder of the road. They were pushing themselves. The pace had gotten fast Coach Bob got into view and saw them. He went to other side of the road and was going to watch this. At that point Ace accelerated a notch as they climbed up California. Thomas allowed him to have it...by not much. Ace slowly made a lead form he could back off and save for a kicking battle down Ohio or force Thomas to begin a longer more severe kick. In terms of brute speed Thomas was faster. He heard two sets of foot steps as he turned on Ohio he knew he only had one option...go all out. As Ace passed the road that went by Kathrine Whe's house Thomas passed him. It was not a fast pass so the distance between them slowly gained through the back parking lot of the school finally to the field house. Ace's legs were on fire his heart was pounding and he had been soaked with sweat completely. Coach Noel was smiling Well done. Mike was sweaty, Tom was sweaty, they decided to see the end of this. They congratulated.

Thomas heard Ace side by side. He was not about to give a kick yet. He was content to allow the side by side position go through Lakeview. He knew he was faster and he trusted his kick. So right now it was a good position to be in. He saw Coach Bob come into view he knew he would turn to watch the race. Ace made the turn hard before Thomas and used the slight uphill to gain. Thomas decided to allow him since on level pavement he was faster even if Ace was going all out. Slowly 10 yards emerged with the turn onto Ohio it was time to go he went hard. He was actually grateful for Ace for getting him off the sauce and making the guys believe they could take district. The Junior wanted the glory. The guys had for too long accepted second-rate status he was now being forced to go harder by him again. He finally made the pass with under half a mile far closer to a quarter mile to go. He made the pass slowly it was clear that Ace was gong full juice his heart was pounding his legs were on fire as he crossed and went through the parking lot. He was nowhere secure of the race until he hit the stadium. He had heard the footsteps of Ace the whole way. Tom and Mike turned around and looked back at what was going Coach Noel Scott was shouting "Way to finish strong!”

Coach Bob had witnessed the race he was surprised at how quickly they were when they were on Lakeview. He turned hard and accelerated behind them trying to watch the race. Coach Bob had gotten a picture what had happened. The fact he saw some other runners ahead meant his plan had worked to perfection. They were running hard. Thomas had cleaned up his act gotten off the booze and his talent better late then never was flowering. Mike was just a notch faster and Tom was busting his butt to stay out of the mess. The pit-bull was chasing hard. He saw the leg strength of Ace of play out on California. He now had to push himself to keep up with the guys half his age running hard. He was 3 yards behind Thomas when they turned on California in addition to coaching Coach Bob found himself in the midst of a race he had to keep up with. He saw the pass set up and occur once it happened he went enough to see the lines taken in the parking lot, which were appropriate. Thomas had beaten Ace but Ace had made him work....

The two joined their teammates with at the bucket of cold Exceed the two cups were filled and emptied twice. Ace had a grin on his face. The girls came back from Encino Amanda in the lead the story had been related about what had happened. Lezlee asked, "Why are you happy Ace?" Stephen King replied "District Gold....its a pretty thing!" Ace smiled. Bo shouted, "You got that right" Dennis arrived and was told what the run was he took off Tom told him about what had happened. Dennis smiled "Good job Ace and Thomas" The group did sit ups and crunches together. They were all exhausted as they headed for the locker room.

Mike said, "Coach Bob pulls another one," Serg said, "What did he tell you at lunch today?" Ace said, "Make sure we don't get Allened" Mike said, "So you did not know about the race?" Ace replied "No." Ace had a grin on his face. Serg said "You are not on Varsity why you smiling?" Ace replied, "I saw what happened today I am expected to be the pessimist around here but now when it comes to varsity gold I like the angle of approach." The smile on his face and tone of voice meant it. He then said, "Don't stop believing." Aero said, "I won't."  Ace at that point started believing.  

Tara was waiting for Ace "Sorry about you not getting it." Ace replied "I got a promise I will get a medal the guys team is going to get glory mission  accomplished the deaths had not been in vain." She asked, "How goes the vision." Ace replied, "Dennis is Dennis but time will tell the genetic material of a Unicorn vision is there it is infecting tissue that has been diseased." There was bluebell waiting for him at home.

Dr King had cooked up a single pound burger covered in cheese and bacon for her son. It was one of the few times she was home early. She said "I received a call from Coach Bob." Stephen was curious "While not able to run varsity he says you are responsible for the real hope of the team taking district." His mom said. Stephen looked at his mom and finally said, "We want the same things for the high school." After dinner was finished his father arrived. Ace did his homework and did more guitars playing. In the silence before sleep came the grief he had known since he had heard the news in June remained. The shock was gone but it hurt. A friend would forever be 17.

 

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