I announced last week that I was hanging up my stopwatch in regard to coaching high school related team track and cross-country. I haven’t given up coaching individual runners who have a desire to achieve a level of excellence that is not possible without coaching expertise. Hopefully I can do that until my toes are turned up. As I reflect back on over four decades of coaching I have so many wonderful memories etched on the canvas of my mind. I wish I had pictures of all the many images in my mind but in those early days of coaching good pictures were hard to come by. If I could take all the wonderful memories I have and paint them on one canvas it would be a Rembrandt.
Pictures are truly worth a thousand words. Every picture tells a story, has an intriguing story behind it. I would like to share with you four pictures I rank as my four all-time favorites over the last ten years.
The first picture is of the 2011 Elkin women XC team’s reaction upon hearing they had qualified for the NCHSAA 1A XC State Championships. This is my all-time favorite. This picture captures the sheer ecstasy and unbridled joy of a group of young ladies at the moment of a season long goal being realized. After months of hard work and dedication, this picture freezes in time their moment of joy. The emotions and thrill of that moment captured in this photo is a wonderful memory that will stay with them for a life time. A picture of such elation is a reminder of the price of commitment that it takes to bring about such a moment, a moment that transcends the boundaries of time. The picture to me is symbolic of what we all strive for in life. We work hard, stay committed to our goals and purposes, and, though we may think it is a long time in coming, the moment the goal is reached brings a satisfaction that finds expression only in youthful exuberance. It is moments like seen in this picture that make us abundantly thankful to be alive and makes us realize how precious such moments are and that they are to be forever cherished.
The second picture is of Zach Millsaps crossing the finishline at the 2012 NCHSAA 1A State Championships to win the 800 meter race. If only this picture could talk. A variety of emotions can be seen on his face: jubilation at capturing a state title, relief that four years of hard work has culminated in victory, a look of amazement that a dream has actually become a reality, and an upward gaze toward heaven in thanksgiving. The picture is made even more special when one realizes in 2011 he was within fifty yards of being a state champion when the unthinkable happened – he stumbled and fell to the track. Lifting himself off the track he finished the race and vowed to come back the next year and win it. Practicing each day with that goal clearly in his sights, his dogged determination lassoed a star and he wouldn’t let go. It is a picture that captures an expression that has tasted the devastating frustration of defeat, but it vanishes with the sweetness of victory. The picture says to me never give up. If you fall get back up, for victory comes to those who keep on keeping on.
The third picture was taken in May 2014 at the NCHSAA 1A State Championships. I call this a “picture of determination.” Elkin running in the 4×400 relay, Shakai Ward has just received the baton for the final leg from an exhausted Kelsey Nicholson. Not only is Shakai in second place, the number one team in the state, Bishop, is also in hot pursuit. The look on Shakai’s face is priceless, as it is a look of unwavering determination and resolve not to be beaten. To lose never entered her thoughts. Like a graceful deer, in a few powerful strides she moved into first place. Then with girt and guts she held off the final charge of the gallant effort of the Bishop runner, securing a state title for the 4×400 team. This “picture of determination” reminds me that in the difficult races we face in life let us run with a resolve not to be beaten, but think only of victory.
The fourth picture was taken April 2014 of Elkin’s Jacob Parker and Brandon Welborn purposely tying in the 800 meter race. The meet was a quad track meet with Elkin, East Wilkes, Ashe County and Forbush. Etched on their faces are the joy of competing and the satisfaction of winning. Their tying reveals the enormous respect they have for each other, the bond they possess as teammates and the unity of their spirits to be champions. The picture is symbolic of how they ran in practice every day, like Siamese twins, often running stride for stride as if connected at the hip, pushing each other to be better. The picture reveals their unselfishness that encourages the other to win if the other cannot. The picture reveals their winning characters that make them winners on and off the track.
In the future I will share more intriguing photos that are among my favorites. For now, these four are at the top of my list from the many images etched on my mind’s canvas. Each reveals a visual story. Each captures a magic moment frozen in time. Each grows in mystique with each passing year drawing me back to that day when dreams actually became reality.