Originally Posted on the Franny's House Blog on Friday, June 17, 2011 11:43 AM
My daughter Alex had the opportunity to attend a track meet recently for 5th and 6th grade students in the San Juan Unified School District. What is meant to be an introduction to competitive track and field events turned in to a demonstration of how compassionate, supportive, and kind children can be to their peers.
Most of the children participating in the event ranged from moderately to extremely athletic in their running abilities. There were six events: shotput, long jump, hurdles, 100 meter dash, 400 meter run, and 400 meter relay. Parents waited patiently in the stands as students participated in the events 8 at a time. I first noticed Alice (her name has been changed to protect her identity; and because I simply don't know it!) when she ran the hurdles. Alice lined up with the other girls at the beginning of her heat, and immediately stood out because she is overweight. Then, the race started, and Alice stood out even more because she ran significantly slower than the other children. Parents in the stand cheered for her and shouted words of encouragement as she ran past, just as they did with all the other children. I was very pleased because I didn't overhear any negative comments from parents or children about her size or abilities, and Alice kept a winning smile on her face the entire time!
Then, during the most difficult race of them all--the 400 meter run, I was moved to tears. 400 meters is almost one lap around a standard track; quite a distance for elementary students! Even the most athletic of the children were winded and red faced by the end of their run. When Alice's heat began the run, it was clear that she was struggling much more than the other children. By the time the other 7 children had crossed the finish line Alice was only one quarter of the way through her lap. She would run 3 or 4 steps, then slow to a walk, and at one point she just stopped to catch her breath.
That's when a few kids ran across the grass in the middle of the track to run beside her and cheer her on. A few kids turned in to several kids, and several kids turned in to a mob! I was amazed at how happy the children were to support Alice, and Alice was absolutely BEAMING in between her huffing and puffing. By the time she reached the finish line the entire crowd was cheering, and there were more tears than dry eyes!
I am pretty sure that Alice will not grow to be an Olympic Track Star, but I am sure that she will remember that track meet forever, and I hope she felt like Michael Johnson after his track victories!