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Photo ofClarke Roudebush
One afternoon at lunch in seventh grade, the cross-country coach from Salem High School came to the middle school to see if anyone wanted to participate in cross-country running. I had never run before and I didn’t know if I would like it. Racing across trails and through the woods seemed exciting and interesting but also exhausting and difficult. I picked up a paper anyway and decided that I would try it. 

Throughout the summer I ran on my own for five days every week with a few days off on the weekend to prepare for team practices that started later in the fall. I ran on trails in the woods and on sidewalks downtown. I ran through neighborhoods and on a treadmill. In August of that summer, the practice officially started. At the first practice, the coach went easy on us and told us to run wherever we wanted to for forty-five minutes. We were at a park so we had huge open spaces. My group went on a hiking trail and went all the way to the top. When we got back, the forty-five minutes were over. At another practice, we ran on the track. It was very difficult because the sun was shining down on us while we ran for four miles. We did many hard workouts and in a few weeks we would have the first race. The practices were getting harder and I was getting faster. I was losing weight and building up muscle. Running was fun and it became less of a hobby and more of a passion of mine, but I never thought I would place in a meet.

A few weeks later there was a meet at a park. The race was measured to be 3 miles long. The coach put me in the junior varsity race since the varsity spots were full. At the starting line of the race I was occupying the Salem spot. The gun fired and the racers took off. I started in the back but sprinted up to third place. After a few minutes the race continued into the woods. The hills were steep and we had to be careful so we wouldn’t get hurt. It had rained the night before so there was a small pond at the bottom of the hill. I did not want to get my feet soaked, but I also did not want to lose my place either. Some runners were climbing across a fence to the other side. I thought that was too risky for my finishing position in the top ten, so I ran through it. Making that decision paid off because my shoes were not as soaked as I thought and more importantly, I did not get hurt. My shoes dried quickly as I ran up a hill. When we got out of the woods, we ran around a baseball stadium. There was pavement on the ground, so it was easier to run on. As I got around the stadium, I saw the person in second. I was really tired from all the running but I remembered our coach talking about perseverance. Perseverance means to not give up. I got closer to the person in second, and I passed her and then she passed me again and we kept passing each other. As I was behind the runner, I started speeding up. I was excited and determined and I knew there was a chance that I could pass her. Two-hundred meters away from finish, I passed the person in second. As soon as I passed her, I started sprinting. As I finished, I realized that I finished in second! All of my hard work paid off. I learned that trying new things is good for everyone and it can impact your life. At that moment, I realized that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

© Clarke Roudebush. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.