Write Again…A memorable moment in May

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, May 5, 2022

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Among the good memories, sweet memories, I have of long ago times, are the years I was track and field coach at Washington High School.

I have always loved that sport, which is perhaps the most basic, purest athletic endeavor there is. It is centered on running, jumping, and throwing, all basic components of physical expression. Participants strive to excel, improve: and genuinely respect their competitors’ efforts as well.

I can say, from the heart, that I loved those boys becoming young men whom it was my privilege to coach. Even now, through the mists of memory, I see them in my mind’s eye as they were then. So young.

So. This preamble leads me to today’s column, which I wrote in 1972.

Allow me, then, to share that column with you.

Leon was our top sprinter, and we felt he had a good chance to win his event in the big conference meet. The field was packed with speed merchants, so it was going to be anybody’s race.

Father Jones-the Catholic priest in our town-was a tremendous sports fan. He came to be one of our track team’s genuine supporters, and the boys always felt better when Father Jones was on hand.

Came the time of the big race, and the excitement could really be felt. The timers waited tensely at the finish. The sprinters were nervously backing into the blocks. The gun was up. The smoke puff, then the sharp report of the pistol. They were off!

As the runners swept toward us in a mass of flying humanity, we could see that it was going to be a blanket finish. They flashed past the finish line in a blur of mingled colors. It seemed impossible to say who had won. Talk about a photo finish.

It was so close. Oh, so close. None of the timers seemed to be sure who had won. Leon had been right up there. It really was anybody’s race.

As the officials huddled, checking watches, trying to pick the winner, something happened. Amidst the confusion of coaches, fans, teammates, who had descended on the finish line, a big, burly man strode onto the track. Very calmy he went up to Leon, grasped him by the wrist, then hoisted his arm skyward, giving the victory sign!

A wide smile burst across Leon’s face. His supporters began congratulating him. The rest of what happened is sort of anti-climactic.

You see, those judges and timers never really had a say-so.

Father Jones had picked the winner for then.

This must have happened, oh, 12-13 years ago, now. (1965) I wouldn’t imagine Leon does much running these days. I’m not a track coach any more.

But I’ll bet Father Jones is still pretty much in control of the situation wherever he is now.

APROPOS- “It’s hard to lose when you are on the side of the angels.”-Patrick O’Berry

NOTE-Leon really was the fastest in the conference. Years later, I initiated track and field at Manteo High School, and coached it for many years. Making more memories.