Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Kids Getting Better

Ready for a feel-good story? The Dana Hills Cross Country Invitational was last Saturday. I went to support our granddaughter, not comprehending what a big deal it was. The meet draws over 100 high schools with several thousand boys and girls competing in 22 races. That means a lot of families. Long story short, by the time I found parking and hiked to the school I missed my granddaughter’s race. Yet, the experience made my day.

The three-mile course winds around the campus so with races of a hundred or so runners starting every 15 minutes, you see runners in all directions. You have to be moved, seeing these students running their hearts out. Likewise, it’s moving to see their families and friends cheering them on. I spoke with a dad, waiting to cheer his son. Where are you from I asked, meaning what high school. He took the question literally: Kenya. Thinking of the Kenyan marathoners, I assumed his son was winning. He wasn’t; he came by in the middle the pack. These must be good runners, I thought.

We all like stories about things getting better; cross country has really advanced since I ran. First, it’s more fun than a county fair. The meets are bigger and better. Teams have shade covers where they hang out and socialize, with large loudspeakers blasting their music. Second, the kids have that lean, keen look, like they’re making the best of their lives while still having fun. Finally, they’re really good, posting great times.

Though running is a personal challenge, it’s also a team sport. Kids from two teams wore shirts with a message. The first was about the individual: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” You had to love the spirit of the message. The other shirt was about the power of team: “No challenge is too big; as family we go forward.”

Though I missed seeing my granddaughter race, she had seen me at the midpoint of her race and called out to me. I didn’t hear; there was a lot of noise. When I found her, she was sporting a medal on a ribbon around her neck. It was a good day for racing, overcast and cool, and the Dana Hills course doesn’t actually have hills. She had taken 2:30 minutes off her personal best and medaled. She was happy.

A happy runner with a new personal best plus a medal.”
Photo courtesy of Mark Hellewell

Later I asked her why she ran cross country: “Running is a personally challenging sport, so I think its the best way to strengthen myself mentally and physically. Though it’s hard, I enjoy it.” She continued, “It teaches me I can do hard things. When I’m finishing a race, I feel a growing confidence.” She added a social benefit, “When you run with people, you get to know them really well, in a deeper way. I’ve made good friends in cross country.” Kids getting better. There’s meaning in that.

Bio: Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected]

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