Abe and I ran cross country together all four years of High School. He would always tease me during the summer by saying, “I’m not coming out this year. I’m going to play football.” (He would have been an All-State receiver) I would spend the summer calling him and begging him to come out. I knew he would be a key component to any chance of being competitive as a team. It never failed. He always showed up on the first day of practice.
Over those four years I grew closer to Abe, along with my other classmates that ran cross country. We spent many hours together both in season and after the season was over. Abe drove me nuts in some ways. His grades were always better, he was always faster, he just had the gifts I so badly wanted. However, Abe never flaunted them in my face. He was always VERY gracious to me and bent over backwards to make me feel good about myself. A rare trait for a teenager.
From a competitive standpoint Abe gave us the edge we needed. Though he came into the season out of shape, by the end of the season he would usually be in the 16:50 range for a 5k. He was a ferocious competitor! He would get all of the 7 varsity boys FOCUSed on the task at hand. Our Junior year there was only one team that beat us and we worked our way to a 2nd place trophy in the Oregon High School 3A Cross Country Championships. Our bond that year grew even closer, as it does when you work hard together to compete as individuals and as a team.
However, twenty six years later, the championship trophies pale in comparison to our friendship. The bonds were so strong they hardly diminished over that time period. We didn’t see each other often. However, when we did, it was as if we were back on the Scappoose Indian cross country team. Working together. Playing together. Competing together.
I share this story with you to encourage you to FOCUS on the relationships you have established and are going to establish by participating in cross country. I promise you they will be more important than the championships and awards you might receive in this sport. Don’t waste time and energy bickering over silly things that just won’t matter. Twenty six years from now you will remember the friendships you had with the people on this team if you keep your FOCUS in the right place.