The following was a writing that I stumbled upon in a bunch of old journal writings. I kept true to actual writing best I could, although I did have to edit some spellings and a few grammatical errors. Most of these old journal writings were written on my old typewriter and in one quick sitting. Kind of like how I write my other entries except for those old ones, they just went into a folder and were never "broadcast". Well... maybe now I can actually share them. Enjoy!
It was the first day of track practice. Basketball was done and we were about to begin the rigorous training "out on the road"... instead of "in the gym". Out running had become my happy place. I wouldn't have guessed it a few years before that, but by my junior and senior year, I loved to get out and run.
My last class of the day was study hall and the teacher/supervisor of the study hall was also the assistant track coach so he let those of us in track head out a few minutes early so we could head down and start getting ready. The hallways of the school got locked down at 4:30 (an hour after school was dismissed, but well before track was done), so I needed to stop at my locker and pick up my books and things that would need to come home with me that night. My locker was down by the Chemistry classroom, who by this time of my senior year was the classroom of Miss Rames. She was the replacement teacher for Mr. Olinger who had been there for years. It was my favorite classroom to go to.... I loved science (Chemistry, Physics....even Biology)!
Once done at my locker, it was down the stairwell at the west end of the hallway with my backpack and gym back. Hustling down the steps three steps at a time, I was down the stairs in seconds and across the hallway of the first level. Straight ahead was the wide steps by the side of entrance to the stage that descended into the gym. I floated down those steps and through the double doors into the gymnasium right by the girls locker room. A few other people were already milling about the gym getting their shoes on and visiting with each other. The bleachers were all pushed in except one section on the east side right in the middle. A few people sat on that section... people that I wasn't sure if they were going out for track or just killing time before the final bell. They didn't concern me... I was focused on getting changed into my running clothes so I could come out and either visit with others or play hacky sack. Sometimes we'd even shoot hoops as we were getting ready.
The walls of the gym were painted a pale yellow. It was a very bright place with only a few windows up high behind both sides of the bleachers. The stage on the south end of the gym had a it's curtain drawn... it's heavy velvety navy blue curtain. The gold "G" in the center of the tassled header curtain that gave a regal appearance to the stage. The lines on the gym floor were painted a dark blue that matched the curtain and a Blue Dragon was painted in the center circle of the gym.
The first day of practice was never typically too tough. We normally would just run the 2.2 (miles, I guess, but it was really only about 1.8 miles, but nobody ever said anything about that to Coach or he probably would have added more distance to the route.). The 2.2 route was north from school up south depot ave along the elevator and behind all the businesses on the west side of Main. When we got to where Depot made a hard turn to the east to meet up with Main, we'd actually make a quick cut behind the city buildings up and over the grassy hill. We probably cut 1/32 of a mile out of the route, but it's just something we did... we always had, so we always continued. The hill sloped down to the north where we'd jump back onto the road right at the railroad tracks and then took 5th Street all the way out over the river to Highway 11 by Deschepper John Deere. When we got to the highway, it was a turn to the south. By this time the distance runners would have a sizable lead over the sprinters and others that were forced to make this run, many of them hadn't run since last track season, but the distance crew had been running the 2.2 in the fall as well, and besides that I had even been running throughout the winter during basketball season, but in the mornings before school, so the 2.2 was nothing to me. That stretch of highway was the longest stretch... down to the river then back up to the intersection then turn east back into town. A left at Jesse James Mini Mart and follow the road north right back to the alley behind the school. It was a good easy run. Doing the cooldown stretches took longer than the run itself but was essential so everyone would start getting limber and loosened up for increased intensity of practices.
Tougher days of track practice would come. Days when we'd get to run 30-60-90's up around the Lutheran Church. [It should be noted here that Garretson in my days didn't have a track. We would either use Brandon's track, Brandon's old track at their elementary school, or we'd run around the Zion Lutheran Church "block"... or the block behind the school that went around Hillestad's house, the Garry's, and the Johnson's.] The distance runners would also later do 60-90-120's as we did in Cross Country... those were especially difficult. the 30-60-90's consisted of running for 30 seconds, then walking for 30, Running for 60, then walking for 60, Running for 90, then walking for 90, then back down to the 30. We'd go through that cycle a few times, take a break, then do it all again. It was one of the worst workouts we had to endure and we dreaded seeing them on the schedule. Coach would post the workouts on the board and purposely wait til the last second to get that one up as to minimize the moaning and groaning.
My stomach aches just thinking about those practices and how hard I would run during them. Those were the days when I really lived for running. Not much else concerned me. I studied just hard enough to get by in my classes. I had learned by my sophomore year that I was able to do minimal studying and still do quite well at my classes. If I had put a little more effort in, I shudder to think on how good my grads could have been. I had a very competitive and smart class. There was about 8 girls and myself that were always competing for the top scores when we were younger through junior high. I busted my hump back then to keep up and try to beat their scores... we would all try to be at the top. By my sophomore year... probably the time that I received validation by being inducted into the Honor Society... I realized I could slack and still be successful enough to do well.
I used running to try to impress... impress girls, but I also just liked being the center of attention. I could do good, sometimes great, in hopes of impressing whomever I was interested in at the time. Don't get me wrong, I really did love running. But what I loved most was being great at something.
I didn't drink alcohol in high school like everybody else, so that too made me different [except once, which I will later explain, as I paid the price]. I loved to be different. I also acted in drama and oral interpretation/declam which put me on the stage... again... in front of people, standing out. Even with running I would do certain things to make myself stand out even more; I'd wear strange and brightly colored tights or bandanas (on my head, around my neck when it was cold, around my wrist and hand as a sweat wipe when it was hot). If I had been a bit more brave I would have shaved my head, but back then that was pretty unheard of. It would've been pretty badass had I just done it. I remember Coach hated those tights that I wore that were so brightly colored. I can't say that I don't blame him. They didn't really fit the uniform look of the team. [I remember buying them at Scheel's when Scheel's was in the Empire Mall just outside of JC Pennys on the north side. I fell in love with those tights as soon as I saw them and I KNEW that I would stand out in those suckers!]
Some highlights from my track career that I can remember vividly still are winning the mile at regions my junior year, starting the 4 x 800 relay my junior year with Scott Johnson, Jeff Johnson and Pete Caffrey. I took off and ran neck and neck with Baltic's Chris Schjodt and at our hand-offs to the second leg we were at a dead tie (Garretson stopwatches had us at 2:00 and Baltic stopwatches clocked us in at 1:59). Baltic ended up winning the race with an average leg time of about 2:05 and we were a close 2nd with average times of 2:07. [I need to go back and find the results from this race... I think I embellished that... I don't remember us running the race that fast ever... I'll update this when I can find it!]. I also remember our medley relay team at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays my senior year. We were an excellent team and were quite stacked with good sprinters and I could pound out a solid sub 2:10 half which would give us a competitive time in any class in SD. Coach submitted our time and we were put onto the alternate list, which was B.S. because the times the other teams must've submitted were taken at their word but there were teams that we had clearly beat and we KNEW had not run times faster than our's and they were in one of the heats. So as alternates, we had to stand by in the staging area and be ready to fill a lane should a team be a no-show. I think it was the second heat had a no-show so they called our name and we were in. We also didn't fully warm up thinking that we weren't going to get this opportunity, but we whipped off our sweats and quickly did some extra loosening up as the teams made their way down the track to the starting line. The second leg of the race had to head over to the 200 point, so the three of us made it down and tried to get pumped up but stay relaxed at the same time. Chad Jones, an 8th grader kicked us off and handed to Peter Caffrey. Pete brought it in to Craig Albers who, when he got the baton, was already in the top three. Craig was an excellent 1/4 miler and flew around the track handing to me in either first or second place. I both loved the half mile and hated the half mile at the same time. I hated it because it was so damn hard. It was a basically a dead sprint for 2 full laps. But I loved it because I was pretty good at it. After the first lap, I could sense that the others were right behind me and gaining.... I could hear people yelling at me to go, to relax and run, to kick it in, that they were right there, pump my arms, to push it... as I crossed the line with one lap to go I dropped in into gear and pushed harder. Rounding corners 1 and 2 I could see shadows behind me but still closer than I liked. The 300 meters to go point is one of the toughest for me... that's where I knew it was too soon to kick it in, but I also didn't want to wait to long. The lungs and legs were already burning and I really WANTED to pop it into sprint mode, but I knew it would be suicide. Second place was making some sort of move down the back straightaway as I could hear their steps move into the lane to my right slightly, but I didn't look back, the 200 point was steps away and as I got within a few steps I made my move and kicked it in. I sprinted hard around 3 & 4 and down the last 100 meters, sucking in the smattering of applause as I crossed the line in first place. It was the only tape I had ever broke at Howard Wood and it felt great. Out of all the heats and all the teams, we ended up getting 7th place, which wasn't too shabby for an alternate team!
I miss those days of burning lungs and burning legs... it almost makes me want to start running again. [and just re-writing this again makes me almost want to start running again... I bet it's not too late!]
I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.