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By DYLAN MALONE
Leave it to a bunch of high school athletes to make me feel old, slow and fat.
I watched in amazement as Bailey Beery and a slew of Starfire boys breeze past the rest of the running field at Bellmont on Tuesday night.
There were a mixture of emotions flowing through my mind as I witnessed history from Beery. She shattered the old track record at Bellmont and she did it without looking tired.
Bailey is already a cool customer on and off the course but to actually see first hand the group of kids coming in sometimes one by one and other times in packs was something. The one thing they all had in common was that at the moment they crossed the finish line they were all thinking the same thing.
“Why did I sign up for this?”
I can’t claim that’s actually what they were thinking. Some of them may have been thinking that though. I know I was and I wasn’t even running.
I take that back. I actually did do some running at the end of the boys race. I was having a casual conversation with a coach with my camera on my side waiting for the last lap.
Wouldn’t you know it, though. I look up on the horizon and see yellow and black jerseys speeding in a pack just beyond where I was standing. I had to sprint along the sidelines just to get to the back of the finish line where I wanted to get a few shots.
Given a 20-second head start I just did manage to beat Sawyer Miller to the line in time see him take gold in the boys race.
Despite the small sizes of our three quaint county schools, we seem to have an abundance of success in the athletic departments.
When you consider that we throw most of our fall sports into ridiculous class categories we do alright for ourselves.
Soccer for instance. Both the boys and the girls for Bellmont moved on to regionals this week despite being extremely small compared to our opponents. Will they win state? Probably not but when you consider that we’re up against schools like Canterbury who live and breathe the luxury sports like tennis, soccer, swimming, and golf it’s amazing that we have a chance to get that far in the first place.
Golf is another great example. Kudos once again for Bellmont making the regionals for the second straight year past the juggernauts and the emergence of South Adams as a legitimate threat to the sectional picture, especially with their secret weapon, Sydney Willis who is a sophomore after all (even I forget that a few times).
Adams Central tennis is another great hallmark for a small school landing on the map with their second straight sectional title. The Braves gave them a great run again in an exciting title match.
Getting back to what I was originally talking about with the cross country, it is amazing to see these kids put their heart and soul into a sport that most adults would simply scoff at now that they are old, slow, and out of shape like me.
I give all the praise in the world to these kids even if it’s not the most popular sport in the high school circuit. On Tuesday night I saw a few kids cross the line and stumble to the ground in a tired heap. A few others tossed their cookies. Dedication.
And to running, no less.
I can’t imagine a more life-rewarding sport than running. When I get done playing softball for my church team, I’m still out of shape.
The athletes who run everyday to compete at the highest level and snag spots in the regional cross country races are improving their lives with their healthy activity. Don’t believe me? Ask Bellmont’s Thomas McNamara.
Track is the same way. To train for distance events and sprints as well as all of the field events is a dedication that I never had as a 17-year old. Admittedly, I played tennis to get ready for basketball but I was terrible at it. I didn’t really get in shape anyway but I know now that it’s because I didn’t put in a third of what these kids do at their trade.
To give credit for their drive and motivation, you need not look any further than the most prevalent voices in their lives: their coaches and their parents.
Without these voices constantly driving them, encouraging them, challenging them, we may not have so much hardware in our hallways at our county schools.
Coaching is a critical part of high school athletics but I think in a sport that takes discipline like cross country, you have to have a whole lot of respect from your students. You are afterall asking them to run until they puke! Props to the CC teams in the area for giving it their all and getting to the next level.