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Greetings from The Booth!
With the new season of Valley League baseball underway, I was going to wax poetic about the VBL and baseball in general this week, but the Sports Dogs Podcast has that covered, so I urge you to head to the Podcast section of this website and give that a listen, and then make sure you head to a Valley League ballpark a few times this summer, and have some great family fun.
As I get ready for a 6-mile group run this morning, my mind wanders back to my days at North Junior High School in Martinsburg, WV, when I ran the mile for my Blue Devils track team. Going into that 9th grade season, I really didn’t know what my event of choice (or that of my coach) would be. The previous season, I had piddled around on the “B” relay teams, and got into some meets, but nothing notable. I wasn’t sure I was even going to run track in the 9th grade.
But going into that final season at NJHS, the first day of track practice was a team 5-mile run (even the shot and discus guys had to participate), and to everyone’s surprise–even mine–I kept up with the distance men, and finished first along with 2 other runners. I had found my event, the mile run. In our first meet, against Shepherdstown, I really had no strategy, and the butterflies were like 747s in my gut as we lined up on the start line. Prefontaine would not like what I did, but I stayed right behind the fastest runner and in the last 100 yards, kicked past him and won the race! A respectable 5:16, or so I thought. In my euphoria, I blurted out, “I want Chris Fox!”
Chris Fox was the undisputed top dog in Martinsburg, and ran distance for our rival, South Junior High. Fox would go on to lead some pretty elite Martinsburg Cross Country teams, ran in the Olympic Trials if memory serves, and as a coach, went on to build the Syracuse track and cross country programs from the ground up. Even back in junior high, Chris Fox was the gold standard. He even had his own parade while he was at MHS.
Our next meet was a tri-meet against Frederick and South Junior, so I would soon get my chance at the great Chris Fox. I planned the same strategy as the previous meet and tried to stay behind Fox. I quickly found out that Chris was a running machine, one of those athletes who looks like he’s not even trying. As he effortlessly chugged around the cinders, I fell farther and farther behind. I was still running a good race and was in second place most of the way, but I learned that I was not in the same league as Chris Fox. Because I had expended so much effort in trying to stay with him, I was gassed at the end and was passed by a Frederick runner, finishing third at 5:14.5.
That would be the high water mark of my scholastic running career. Injuries followed, and much effort by the Martinsburg HS Cross Country coach to recruit me that Summer fell on deaf ears as I gravitated back to my first love, baseball.
Moral of the story…be careful what you ask for.
So long from The Booth! RW