Until this morning, no one had ever threatened to call security on me before. But this mama bear was not one to mess with today. I had been waiting by my phone for Samantha to send me the signal that she was warming up for her final race of her high school career. Seven years she had invested in this sport and we were on our way to see her run one last time. I will not miss going to track meets, but I will miss watching my baby girl lap that track and fight to achieve her goals. She sent our signal and we headed out.
This year has been hard. Cross country season was a phenomenal letdown as she had high hopes and painful injuries that kept her from doing what she worked three long years to accomplish. It tested her commitment, her drive, and her faith but in impressive fashion she looked past, forward, and more importantly, she looked up. Her body has been holding up during track season despite coming home on multiple occasions with bags of ice wrapped around her calves, but she had yet to push through that final wall.
The 800 meter run is her main event and all year she's had a goal for a specific time. She had come within 3 seconds of it before, and within 5 or 6 seconds of it on multiple occasions. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when you’re only running two laps you would be surprised how hard it is to close that gap. Today was her last chance. The League Championships are a 2-day event and they hadn’t charged for day 1, but as we approached the entrance on day 2 we discovered that they were charging to get in. “That will be $13,” she said. We were unprepared – neither Cory nor I had any money. “Well,” the cashier said, “there’s a 7-11 across the street where you can find an ATM.”
The race started in 10 minutes. My head got hot and I replied, “Sorry, but I’m going in to watch my daughter race right now. I’ll have to figure this out later.” “Alright then, I’ll just have to call security,” she spit back. “That’s fine, you do that,” I managed as I made my way past her with Cory and Drew in tow. I had butterflies in my stomach the whole ride over and the threat of security only heightened my anxiety over this last and final event.
These words have become all too common lately.
I knew how important it was to her to do well, and I didn’t want to see her walk away disappointed again. As I watched her line up I said what I always say under my breath, “Come on baby girl, this is your time.” The gun shot off into the air and they were off. Seconds and hundredths of seconds began ticking away on the scoreboard as they rounded off 200 meters, then 400 meters, and she looked strong. Fierce, upright, determined; her first 400 meters had her leading the pack. With my palms face together and poised at my lips, I watched intently as she headed into her second lap. “Come on baby girl, this is your time. Your last chance.” When she passed in front of me I screamed my normal, “Go baby! Go! You can do it!” but unabashedly added, “I LOVE YOU SAMANTHA!” The seconds were ticking by but I knew she was having a good run and I prayed for her to have this moment. I knew she deserved it - payment for a grueling year, reward for never giving up, and joy for finally achieving one more personal record. As she crossed the finish line I shot my eyes up to the scoreboard before flashing them over to the coach on the field, gripping his timer with force; my answer was confirmed by his reaction – with a fist pump in the air and a sprint to meet her at the finish line I knew she had done it. She did it! I couldn’t believe it. She was finally having her moment – she bent over in exhaustion before running over to the coach and giving him a hug. A moment later I saw her look up into the stands where I met her distant stare – she found me, raised both arms in triumph and I raised mine in the air to match it.
I was crying by now, and it took a few more minutes before I got to hug her myself and tell her how proud I was of her. She cried into my shoulder as we held each other and managed through her tears, “Thanks Mom.” When she pulled back I spotted the huddle of team members rushing over to congratulate her as I stepped aside and paused to take it all in. Lots of smiling, hugging, and celebrating ensued.
Samantha stayed behind to cheer on her other teammates for the remainder of the meet while Cory, Drew and I headed for the exit. We hit yelp for the nearest bank, grabbed some cash and I went back to pay the cashier. “Hi,” I said as I approached the kiosk. “I believe I owe you $13.”
And security never came.