Chapter 8 Section 4 Tales of Dead Armadillo A Novel About Crosscountry 1993 Esteban Erik Stipnieks


Thursday meant film rolled. It also was an increase in the emotions felt by seniors. It was all building by the workout. Ace skipped lunch with the team he had to talk to the school newspaper reporter about what had gone on. Ace had a C in AP English A goverment Algebra II had been going easier the other classes were doing well b range. It was finally time for the workout.....Coach Bob announced it a mile up six strides half down.  Nothing was going to be left to chance by the Coaches.

Raul could not believe what he encountered in the locker room. Tom's emotionalism along with Serg and Bo’s joined Ace's. He could not figure out what was going on. Tom finally vocalized what he could and said "One day you will understand." For a portion of their life the team had meant much it was a fact of life loved now it as going away. For Raul he no grasp of the love that Tom had for the team. Raul did not understand BO's hippness and love for the team he joked he loved his personal glory but the characters of the team the girls and the sport. Now Bo was looking at one of his last two workouts of the season. Ace had gotten quiet. The Locker-room of the girls had a hints of a dirge along with the hope of real glory that for once they would share in.

Out on the track the seniors were caught they knew at a core level only fellow seniors knew what they were going through. Yet they wanted the fire to be maintained to insure victory. The launch was going on target. The warm up four laps were taken with the mix Anna jogged with Tara. She realized Tara was enthusiastic about winning. Being a part of Gold medal team and not leading it was a new experience. She was obviously enjoying it. Julie with Kimber had a relaxed tone deliberate in focus but happy to be sharing the spotlight with a guys team that wanted it. Leisha had become assimilated into the ways of New Braunfels and realized she had gone Unicorn to the bone. Amanda was intrigued with Ace and the two ran their strides together. She was not as hot as Brandy, Lezlee or Anna but Ace did appreciate her beauty. He enjoyed the bond of friendship that had grown. Ace had gotten accepted by the power brokers of the team and on one level was still an orphan. The six strides were done. Bo had found another girl to be interested in and was not jealous of the relationship. Tara was watching it with would not develop much she already saw Ace backing off some. It was an emotional time and the juniors on the team had gotten the hope of domination they were not going to let it stand in the way of their glory. The warm down was smooth and the pushups and sit-ups were done at maintence level then the Exceed was consumed. The strides were run after the 3200 was run with real effort!

Then plan was initiated. Coach West announced Ace was eating dinner at his place. The choreography from Allison, Amanda, Lezlee and Anna coupled with Kimber was impeccable. On the sound system a CD had been copied and burned with a single song with a note play.  They had been there done it before. This was a tradition and the newer girls were quickly taught the finer point’s tape, crepe paper of baby blue, royal blue an white white the logos had been made the cards had been purchased it had been done before. The boy’s parents had received the calls and welcomed the return of the annual tradition that had gotten just a bit more significant. In the case of Stephen Ray and Raul the job was very inside by 7:30 all the boys’ rooms had been decorated by the girl’s squad.

Coach Bob knew it was going on he had to smile. It had gone for a couple years yet the return seemed fitting. In a number of houses through NBISD crosscountry runners slept coming on district feeling connected to a team that in their own they were happy to be a part of.  Lockers were yet to be tagged.

Friday was a climax and dirge. It had two aspects for many of the seniors on the team. Anna and Lezlee were facing the end of their career. Ace also accepted that within 48 hours his career would end. He wore the letter jacket the T-shirt and the blue jeans. The meet was announced along with the location to get fans to cheer it on the home team on home turf. The class work was hard in AP English, physics, algebra II, for Ace. The lunch bunch gathered for the last time before district. Tara hinted that there would be a surprise at the pep rally. Serg laughed at the return of the old tradition of room decoration. It was appreciated. The traditions resurrection had been nice the command given the varsity guys from the girls was simply win district.

Coach Bob and Coach Noel talked to each other in the teachers lounge a special discounted rate to the see the movie Rudy was secured at the Walnut six. It would be a good motivational movie. The talk was for a pizza party that night then walk across the parking lot. They just hoped it would be district glory to celebrate. The air though was confident. They knew their roles and all that was left was to execute. The workout would be a mile leisurely jogged on the track. Then attend at the pep rally Coach West had something planned and he made it clear he wanted the team to be there.

Coach Bob saw the team walk in. He said "I know you show up the Pep Rally be prepared Coach West wants you there." Give an honest mile. We are expecting a cold front tonight so the tradition of facing wickedly cold weather will continue it will be in the lower 40s and windy tomorrow. We will have a group rate to see the movie Rudy tonight at the 7:30 showing I want you asleep by 11. He looked at Tom and said "I did read your article about sex and performance but monogamy and abstinence till marriage has been shown to have long time physiological benefits.” At that he told the group to head out.

Bo was not his happy go lucky self but rather serious in the locker room. Serg made an attempt at a one liner the growing inertia of the upcoming meet was there.. They changed quickly as if not wanting to linger. In the locker room they were faced with the fact that the season was fading the run gave them something to do.

Amanda saw Bo leaving the locker room. Tom, Bo, Ace and Serg were instep leading the way. She and Kimber along with Anna and Lezlee were in a similar state of mind. The team walked together to Unicorn stadium. Tara could feel the intensity spool up in way she had not known. The flirting between the guys and girls was not there. Anna smiled at Ace "You ready to leave on top?" Ace nodded. They arrived at the stadium. The pre workout stretching went from almost second thought ritual a deliberate plan. Tom took charge. The pace of the stretching was slow and deliberate. Each position was slowly worked into as the muscles were gently worked and loosened. The muscles of the legs were cool and as result no excessive force was applied. The result was a small aid to the event of the following day. The team was taking nothing for granted.

The mile run rapid acceleration just a slow gentle build. Even Raul had learned enough to listen to cues from his body on what was going on. He was planning the course plan as he began. Bo had become better trained...the smart mind was more sensitive to cues his body gave him and his experience made it more useful. Ace had gotten more use to the course. He was forming the plan for what he knew was his last race. Anna and Lezlee’s likewise were thinking as they came up to their pace just above long range cruise. Kimber was ahead.

Coach Bob watched the stretching the seniors smartness had dominated the team. He was happy with what he saw. He did not give to cautions about how to handle things. He walked up as they started their four laps around the track. As they ran he read the faces....they final adjustments were being made. The movie had been a good idea. Now it was just a matter of allowing things to fall into place.

Stephen Ray ran the mile aware of the intensity that was building. The emotions of the seniors could be felt the girls were not as flirty. Kimber was warm but business like. It was clear that while the burden of stardom was not longer solely around her neck Amanda was serious. Linda who was normally laid back also had the look of seriousness. He used the run to modify and finalize his plans for the race. The team's temper while being held in check this year could be brutal. Steven Ray also wanted a medal even if it meant personal glory. The team's personalty had changed somewhat but for the better and he felt the force of what was going on and liked it. He was aware of what was going on in his body. His plan was now formed.

In 8 minutes the team was off the track and walking back to the locker room. They knew to show up to the pep rally they did not develop a funky smell. The girls the girls went in through another hallway that went straight from the gym to the outside they hung a right at the gym entrance and joined the guys. Tara had a smile on her face. The football team marched in with the band playing. The agenda was followed as it was attached to the basketball hoop. There was highlighted “Special Message from the football team.” Anna was not given a feature dance the focus was on this race. Kathrine did not participate in the cheer it seemed that the idea of golden Saturday. Coach West got to the microphone "Ace and boys Varsity crosscountry team comes to the center of the floor." The whole boys team approached from the opposite corner away from the football team on the hard wood of the floor.  They were in the royal blue circle of the cinder block gym.  He brought a boom box He continued "I realize that for the last 3 seasons you guys have played second fiddle to the girls" He continued "I am new here and this message from my daughter and the girls to you" The sound of an anthem from 82 that rocked the gym  "Shadows Of The Night" filled the gym.

A football assistant Coach smiled direction of his boss with a thumbs up.  The assitant had been on the series of squads that had dominated started in 1982.  1982 had been his JR year.  Coach West had motivated the guys by recalling past glory saluted the past while helping the girls keep the course that Ace  All the football team stood up and shouted. After it was over with "We like being in good company bringing victories to this high school we know we are being supported in your hearts tonight tomorrow morning we will be cheering you on."

Tom walked back his smile was hard to hide. The girls had cheered on their male teammates never had the guys been recognized. Tom was not a glory hound but he relished it. The warmth of the school was nice. The feeling of unity among unity was something he savored. Stephen Ray was all smiles as Bo, Tom, Raul, Aero, Ace, Thomas, Mike and Serg walked back. The other members of the JV boy’s team were basking in glory shone on the Varsity squad. The warmth was Stephen's response was nice. Bo was smiling and he said "This is the way to go out.....on top.” Serg responded “You said it brother.” Serg gave Ace a high five along with Stephen Ray. Ace looked "2nd and 3rd tomorrow!" The look was an encouraging challenge the one Amanda had tossed Ace. Steven Ray smiled "You know it!" The off key but passionate voices sung the Alma Matre together and then walked off to the sound of the fight song at 6:30 they would meet at Mr. Gattis.

French Fries’ mom drove him across I-35 to Mr. Gattis. He lived near the Wal Mart on the still developing far east side of New Braunfels. He had stopped his partying with the season...he wondered why people had gotten on Raul even though he lead the races while partying. Tom greeted him he had been there first. Person by person the whole team arrived. Tom was everybody’s older brother. The decoration had been fun by the girls. That along with the crosscountry logo on the locker the decorations on it made him smile he felt the support and he enjoyed it. He was a big freshman on campus. Tom in the fifteen minutes they waited was quiet yet thankful for the fact the guy’s team. Dennis was going to play football. He was the sterner of the two fathers of the team. Ace had been granted the role by Dennis. The cheers were Ace's weapon of choice.  He gave far more enthusiastic encouragement then sarcastic remark.  Amanda had a big smile when she arrived. Linda was relaxed with her brother in tow. The team was clearly unified and Aero was facing his star yet newbie status. She had the power to keep in his place. Bo was smiling putting a brave face to hide the fact he was in some grief. They ordered the buffet. Tom made the comment less on the Pepperoni more on the raw pasta of the spaghetti they did not want to get water logged. Aero decided to take the advice. Aero sat by Anna who did not mind it. The group ate and talked about the quirks of the course and the cold front no tights but they team would be in warm ups. They all drank water instead of soda that night. Aero felt the joy of stardom yet he was feeling the weight. Raul and he were nice to each other knowing they were the locus of the action. Raul made a comment about how spaghetti without sauce was not too fun eat. Bo said but Gold looks nice and that he wondered what running at UTSA in November would be like. The tone was with smile cockiness. Aero got another plate of the spaghetti no sauce with some water to drink. Anna smiled. When it was finished the group walked across the parking lot and bought tickets to the movie Rudy.

Coach Bob was there to greet the team they had their team T-shirts on. He watched the movie and its story about persistence was gripping. It was not breaking away but it had its point. He hoped that the persistence Rudy displayed would rub off on some runners he had state aspirations for Raul. Tom had told him about the lower salt consumption of the spaghetti that had pleased him. The idea of a motivational movie was new years before Kid n Play had been played as movie just to goof off as the movie ended the wind was howling and team went their separate ways. The front was blowing through. He looked at this team no tights and try to stay loose.

Dennis had not been permitted any plays that night. The Unicorns had won. Tom had been excused from student trainer duty. Kathrine Whe had been absent from cheering. The emphasis had made on taking district. His teammates while Dennis had been suited up. He realized what was going on as he was Unicorn stadium. He did not mind. His teammates made sure he was a part of the victory and made it clear what was expected tomorrow....domination. He heard the rain fall down the front had passed he did all he could to get some sleep it did not happen easily he knew how much crosscountry meant to him and the emotions were intense and had to be endured.

Ace got home and tried to go to sleep....the emotions would not allow him. He lay in his bed still hundreds of thoughts in his head a true emotional time. The four years four teams had gone by so fast. The sport he was luke warm about had become a passion each team with its personalty. Denton understated yet powerful New Braunfels with its drama. Now he was looking at his last meet. As tradition almost a cold front had decided to blast cold air and all the adaptations made for heat were gone sucking air was like inhaling lead. Ace knew he should try and sleep but gave up finally for six hours sleep came. The rain came as the fell on the roof his house Ace finally had the stimulus for sleep. Phase 1 of the remake of his hometown was reaching its climax and he was soon to say goodbye to his friends and defacto family of the crosscountry team.



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