It’s final race time and I’m in the mood. I sit focussed in the stands completely oblivious to the cheering and shouting around me. My hands are on my legs and my feet are tapping as I face downwards and listen to my favourite song through my headphones. My dark green running vest is dripping with sweat from the past few races and hangs over my black running shorts with my ‘skins’ slightly visible below the hem. I’ve watched the races go by, heard all the announcements, and I’m ready.
“200m finals!” calls the announcer, the sound bouncing around the stadium through the high-tech speakers. I jump up and quickly turn off my music while skipping steps down towards the marshalling area. Everyone seems to be moving to their events as I hurry over to the waiting seats to join the throng of nervous athletes, just one more face filled with intense anxiety.
I sit down, immersed in hundreds of erratic thoughts. A random muscle twitch grips my thigh and I try to control it with a steady stomp of my leg on the hard rubber track. The starter’s gun shatters the air and the first heat of runners explodes off the blocks.. Strong times of 27:01, 26:98 and 26:93 pop up onto the electronic scoreboard, just one second off the school record.
Adrenaline is rushing through my body as the starter calls us to our line, the sun beating down hard on my face. The fear is letting down my house team, Lachlan, and it’s overwhelming. I am about to run the biggest race of my life... Will my relentless training pay off? Can I smash my personal best? Will I be a ribbon contender? Is the Age Champion Trophy within my grasp? I inhale and exhale as deeply as my nerves will allow and try to ignore the exhaustion that has set in after the races this afternoon. The starter gun is raised and I lean down, positioning my feet on the blocks with a singular focus on the track ahead and my end goal firmly engraved in my mind.
Boom goes the starting gun and everything transforms into slow motion as I shoot off the blocks. The cheering erupts from the stands and my legs start pumping. The finals of the 200m sprints, this is my moment.
I round the bend for the last 100 metre straight and eye down the finish line like a lion its prey. The track feels like it’s moving backwards... as if I’m running on the spot. I focus on the track ahead, innately aware of the runner now gaining ground on my left side. My legs feel like lead and my face contorts with the agony my body is enduring. I lean forward, thrusting myself across the finish line...my eyes immediately searching out the electronic scoreboard. Lachlan is cheering and I finally find my name. - Xander Hoskinson - first place, 200m sprint. I’ve done it! The Age Champion title is in my reach! I leap around with joy and excitedly collect my blue first place ribbon from the marshals lined up with their ‘serious face’ next to the track. I run back to the stands and hi-five my friends before sitting down exhausted.
The day is finally coming to a close and I feel like the trophy ceremony couldn’t possibly take any longer. I sigh as they start with the year fives and slowly make their way through the age groups...”Grade 7 Boys”, our Head of Sport announces. I jolt up and nearly fall off my seat. ”In third position...Matthew McCallum!” I see a boy in blue jump up from across the stands, to the delight of the sea of blue shirts around him. He walks up to the front, shakes the teacher’s hand and stands in front of us with his trophy. It’s huge I think to myself as the sport head continues to read, “ In second place, Graham Bush!”. A boy a few rows down stands up and my house group starts to cheer. It’s finally time. The announcer pauses before starting to read. This is my moment, everything I have been training for over the last few months - the dream of holding the first place trophy. ”And in First Place...” he pauses to look up to the crowd, “ Xander Hoskinson!”
I jump out of my seat and rush up to the podium shaking the hands of my fellow competitors before receiving my trophy from the Head of Sport. He gives me his congratulations and repeats my name to the crowd while I shake the hands of my fellow competitors and step up above them. A photographer quickly instructs us to smile for a photo and we lean in as the flash goes off, and my dream is complete.
I’ve had a long and tiring day writing times and scores under the blazing sun. We’re at the final event rotation and I’m so glad that today’s carnival is coming to an end. Every year I sit in the heat, calling races, writing times, timing heats, and the list goes on. I put on a good voice, in my attempts to hide the boredom and start reading out the areas for each event, “Thank you everybody for a fantastic day and another successful Athletics Carnival!” The sound continues to resonate around the stadium and I glance back down at my schedule. “The proceedings for final rotations are as follow: “u10’s are at long jump, u12’s are going to high jump and finally, the u14’s have 200m sprints”. I lay the microphone back down and everybody starts shuffling around in their seats, picking up water bottles, taking off hats and staring into the distance at what will be their final rotation.
Everybody starts moving and the stadium is filling with noise. They begin to cross the track like a herd of buffalo and I see many of the teachers struggling to help over the noise. People are running, walking, jogging, talking. It’s a nightmare trying to organise these event changes. I rush back to the main scoring table and pick up a few marking papers to give to the scorers around the track quickly walk around, handing them carefully to the supervisors for each activity.
About 3 stations out, I look down at the sheets and I realise... I’ve given the incorrect sheets to the last group. I stop quickly and let out a long sigh, bringing my hand up to wipe the sweat off my forehead. Oh why can’t things be more simple, I think to myself as I turn back and start a steady jog back through the hard ground towards the previous stand. The students are waiting anxiously as the teacher is analysing her incorrect sheet with a puzzled look. “Sorry!” I shout out from about 10 metres away. She turns around quickly and stands up. “I gave you the wrong sheets, this is the one I meant to hand you”. I wave a set of sheets in the air and she realises and starts a fast walk towards me. “Ah yes”, She replies while I hand her the new copies, “ I thought it was odd asking for length measurements on the high jump!” She smiles and heads back to her seat. “Okay guys you can start your warm-up now!”, she calls out to the students in the queue and I hear the clanking sound of the bar during my brisk walk back to the sprints zone.
After finishing my rounds, the events are underway. I hear the starter gun crack the air and I am handed a stopwatch for recording the next few heats. The crowd’s roar is emanating from the stands and I slouch back in my seat as the runners come through the line exhausted from their race. Their heads down, panting as they are sprayed with water by the smiling faces of the teacher helpers. Then lined up in finishing order, they drop to the seats letting out long breaths and await further instruction.
Beep beep, goes the stopwatch as the settings switch to timer. I glance up and see the supervisor across the field raise his hand. The runners are in position and the starter raises the gun. BAM it goes and they’re off. I clumsily turn on the stopwatch as the roar of the crowd takes me by surprise. They turn the corner and I see the determination on their faces as powerful strides wash them through the finish like a rampaging Tsunami. Beep, goes the stopwatch again and the noise from the crowd dies down. Once again they take their coloured sticks and line up in order of finishing position. I leave the finishing line tables and walk over to the scorers seated in front of the athletes. I take my seat and begin to look at the timings which people are bringing in. The neat and organised lady in front of me is trying desperately to remember everything in the flock of birds that surround her. She scribbles down the times as fast as her eyes zip across the numerous piles of numbers scrambled on the table.
I take my seat and start calling the runners to the desk. I slouch back and grunt, “Name and house please”. The first boy replied with a long breath, “Graham Bush, Fitzroy”. I quickly jotted his details down in the first box before calling, “Next!” . A boy walks up and says in a hurry, “ Xander Hoskinson, Lachlan”. I scribble down his details and once again, I continue. “Next!”, I call and roll my eyes as I see he is not listening. “Next!”, I start to shout now. On and on and on it seems in my mind, these boring carnivals, writing times and sitting doing nothing.
Finally time for presentations, my favourite time, as it’s the last event of the day. I don’t waste time, silence the students and get on with it’. I speed through the list, making sure to give hurrying gestures to the photographer when necessary and urging the students to ‘run along’. Before I know it, otherwise known as finally, I’ve reached the last group, u14. ‘In third position...”, the noise reverberates around the curved concrete crevices and curves in the walls. “Matthew McCallum!” As they have for every person who’s received something today, the crowd began to cheer as a boy in blue rushed down the stairs to the podium. “In Second Place!” I call, putting on my best excited voice. “Graham Bush!”. Once again, another boy runs down to the podium and I shake his hand and usher him along. ”And in First Place...” I pause and look up as if to create some sort of ‘excitement’, “ Xander Hoskinson!”