Personal account of the St. Michael’s Bayou Boogie on Sept. 6, 2014 — by SPS Cross Country runner Patrick Napier.
“Beep! Beep! Beep!” Those three rings can only mean one thing; time to get up. I looked over at my alarm to see 4:25 a.m. glowing red in my pitch-black room. As I got up and started getting dressed and packing my bag, I was already seeing the race in my head and going through the splits I wanted to hit and overall time I wanted to run. By 5:00 I had everything ready to go.
“Mom,” I whispered as I crept silently through my house, “Are you ready to go?” We got in the car and drove along the interstate, which was completely deserted, all the way up to school.
When we arrived, the only others there were two of my teammates and the crickets that were chirping a song for us. As more people started to show up, we began to get ready. As simple as running and the concept of it are, why it takes us 45 minutes to finally set off is a mystery to me. As parents and runners alike began arriving, our coaches worked on getting the two buses out of the gravel parking lot and down the road to where we were loading the trailer. One of the parents, Mr. Reggie, jogged over to us and hurriedly said, “Run over to the parking lot. One of the buses is stuck in a hole, and y’all need to go push it!”
No one thought he was being serious, so we all walked over to the parking lot only to find out that he had been telling the truth. Try as we may, nothing could make that bus budge. Disappointed, we walked back over to the trailer to load up on the one bus that we had. Our coach, Coach Terryl Chatham, met us there and, as usual, had a speech waiting for us.
When he finished his talk, we said our usual prayers and then loaded up on the bus. This is always the part of the meet that generates the most arguments; everyone wants a seat as far back as he can get. Why that is, I still have no idea. I picked out a seat in the middle, right across from the A.C. with Tristan Smith, the same person I sit with for every bus ride. This, I thought, was the perfect time to catch up on my sleep.
When I finally came to, I first looked out the window at the hills of Highland Park and then at my watch that was telling me it was 7:14 a.m. We unloaded the bus and unpacked the trailer. We set up the tents, rolled out the tarps, put out the bench, and then we walked the course. This is something that not many teams do. This is the reason we wake up so early. We all go out in one group and walk/jog the course that we will run later in the day.
I jogged the course with Henry, Eric, Thomas, and Stephen. This not only gave me a chance to learn the course, but also to find out who else was there. This was a somewhat smaller meet, so Mandeville, SSA, and Jesuit were three of the big name schools that were not there. After jogging the course, we went back to our tent, and Ms. Wiggins gave everyone their numbers. As she handed me my number, 941, I realized how close we were getting to beginning the varsity race. Our race was not until 9:15, so we did not warm up until 8:40.
When 8:40 eventually rolled around, we got our varsity team together and began our warm up. Eric Coston, the boy wonder of cross-country, was leading our team’s warm-up, and everyone was watching him. There were 15 of us running Varsity for this race, and we are a very young team — no seniors, two juniors, five sophomores, and eight freshmen. Finally, the call went up for us to line up.
Standing on the line is where everybody, and I mean everybody, gets butterflies in their stomachs. From first-time varsity runners, such as Henry Elliot and Stephen Schlottmann, up to national-class runners, like Eric Coston and Spencer Albright, every one feels nervous or pressured or butterflies when they step up to the line. Standing on the line, you always hear the same thing. This time the person giving the commands was a man from St. Michael’s, the host school, who announced, “There will be two commands; runners to your mark and then the gun. Runners to your mark!” The gun then rang out.
The beginning of a race is one of the more difficult parts, because everyone wants a place up at the front, and there is a limited amount of room to find a place and stick with it. We took off, and you could see everyone sprinting up to the front. I concentrated on not getting spiked while getting into my pace. I set into my pace as we took the first left up a hill, and I gave it some extra energy to keep up with those around me. As we got back around by the starting line, there was a wall of parents and teammates on either side of me, and I could hear them all cheering.
I passed the viewers and started up another hill. I could see Eric leading the race, and I hoped that he could hold on to that. I made a circle around some of the tents and sprinted down the second downhill, making my way to the first mile mark. I crossed a small bridge and passed the first mile as all of my teammates yelled at me to speed up on the uphill. Going up the uphill, a few people passed me, so I sped up. We passed through a wooded area, and I stepped on a root, losing a few precious seconds trying to right myself to keep from falling.
After getting myself on track, I saw Stephen out of the corner of my eye, running strong. He was pushing the pace of those around him and powered by me as I shouted some encouragement and tried to keep up with him. I passed the second mile, and my legs begin screaming at my brain as I used the next downhill to my advantage. I knew I had less than a mile left, but I didn’t know if my body would let me.
I tried pushing through the pain and managed to hold onto my place up until there were about 800 meters left. I lost a few spots, when Max and Tristan passed me, before coming to the last 400. I gave it everything I had left, but that wasn’t enough. I finished in 31st place overall and 7th on our team, with a time of 17:43.
Honestly, I was disappointed with my performance, and I just walked around thinking about what I could have done differently. I just had a bad day and a bad race. I went to congratulate my teammates on how they did and could see that not all of them were happy. Asking around, I found out that Eric came in second to a John Curtis runner, with a time of 15:14; he was only 15 seconds off from the winning time of 14:59. Our team put up a good fight, but we had no idea whether it was good enough to take home the gold.
We waited until all the scores had been tallied and then gathered with everyone in front of the main tent. Sitting there waiting to find out how we did as a team is one of the best parts of the meet, waiting to find out if we worked hard enough in training as a team to bring home a trophy.
After they handed out the individual awards, they moved on to the team awards. They started with 12th place and worked their way up to first. When they got to third, they began handing out trophies. In third place with 63 points was St. Paul’s. We were excited, but also a little disappointed. Third place was nothing to be upset about because we learned where we were as a team, who needs to work harder, and what we can improve upon. Catholic High claimed second with 53 points, and John Curtis took home the gold with only 37 points.
After the awards, we packed up the tents, loaded the trailer, and then headed to the bus. Most people slept on the bus ride but awoke when we got to the arch leading up the main drive of St. Paul’s to sing the fight song. We yelled and clapped and laughed, not only as a team, but also as brothers, as a family.
Next meet: Episcopal High Round Table, September 13, Highland Rd. Park – Baton Rouge (races begin at 8:30 a.m.)
“Many thoughts race through my mind As I step up to the starting line Butterflies thru my stomach fly And as I free that last deep sigh, I feel that death is drawing near, But the end of the race I do not fear. For when the string comes across my breast, I know it’s time for eternal rest. The gun goes off, the race is run, And only God knows if I’ve won. My family and friends and many more Can’t understand what it was for. But this “Race to Death” is a final test And I’m not afraid, for I’ve done my best” -John Baker