Book II Chapter 9 Section 4 One last Preperation For The last Race Of The Season Tales of Dead Armadillo Novel By Esteban Erik Stipnieks a story of cross-country running and early 1990s New Braunfels
Regional’s meant a week of off duty for Stephen King after he got the prints for district done. He hung out the morning in publications room as the story he was at best ambivalent about was published. He was being drug into the story. He also realized though it was useful in the fact that like Amanda the town was facing the realities of life that had been shoved down his throat in Denton the spotlight felt different then he had imagined his freshman year. Susan had been forced to write the story it was compelling. The Herald had a variation on the story. The football team were happy as of next Friday their favorite photographer would be back on duty.
The swim coach saw Coach Noel Scott getting a cup coffee in the lounge in the morning as he was entering the grades in his grade book. His comment you worked em hard yesterday. He laughed at the comments that he heard Serg and Bo make. The quip came back "I see you also are about unity." Coach Noel replied "Yeah the football team respects the crosscountry team I hope the crosscountry team respects you guys and girls now." There was no doubt that power bars were going to be used. Coach Noel Scott finished and met the deadline by the hair he shaved..
The lunch bunch had bananas and a massive amount of grains that Thursday whole grains. Kimber, Linda, Serg, Tara and Amanda ate together. The girls were curious bout the workout. Linda was dealing with the bittersweet fact of regionals. Her brother's departure had allowed Ace. Thomas cracked and drank the beer. Ace was happy with the team taking district and he did not appear to really like the fame that was being thrust upon him. He accepted it and treated it as a means to an end. Linda also was upset at the police for busting her brother. The irony is that Ace felt the underage drinking laws were absurd and he felt that the 21 drinking age lead to people drinking to get drunk. Serg described in detail what it was like under the covered pool. He talked about the four periods of treading water. Ace had a sly grin on his face. The four granola bars followed the power bar and bag of Doritos. It was time to leave. Ace asked "Is the course at UTSA better with the name regional attached to it." Serg responded "Any course is."
In the locker room before Encino Bo made the quip "How does it feel to be famous Ace?" Ace said "Stupid law about drinking stupid behavior now the spot light is on." Tom said "You are not gloating." Ace replied,“Why gloat about crap happening My Junior year the fastest guys got to race at regionals it was a great course I got the privilege of a plane ride. Lets run Encino as it is our last for most of it is we made it to the bonus I am not saying drag it but have fun."
The circle of the guys and girls team was loose as they gently stretched in the chilled air. There was purpose and unity as the guys and girls were looking forward to regionals. Unity though tested was stronger. It was not old school Unicorn....it was not Bronco or Edinburg. The team had coalitions of oddballs that were a Unicorn team the effect of Denton's high school's isolation from the college community was a remark. Edinburg's sense of fun all mixed. Aero was enthusiastic but he was looking forward to a party after the season he had not had a drop of alcohol since July. November and December would be very wet for Aero and it was not the rain.
Amanda was feeling the vibe from Kim and Tara. The sense of fun and joy was infectious. Regional had been an expectation from her freshman year. She had talent as she ran the 8 laps it was a moderate pace not quite the bare warm up on Friday not the intense of speed workout. Amanda could not help but smile as the season had taken a turn. Raul's and Special departure had indicated that change but as she explored the force of change it was not angry or intense inflexible as a wind sweeping off the hills the great Norther. It was practical but pure. She was understanding things. The enthusiasm translated a smile to her face as she gave Tara and Leisha a cup of Exceed as they finished.
The conversation was not there as the guys ran the run. Aero was looking at glory in future. He figured running slow would be the best to err on. He was a bit tight from the workout in the pool much to his surprise. He had a feeling that regional would routine for him he was taking it in and trying to figure things out. Steven Ray and Mike the two Juniors were realizing that they were in the first of potentially two trips to district. The scenery was nice as the season had one more season. For Tom, Bo and Ace the run was a fairwell. It was a fond fairwell. They knew Saturday would be there last race. They focused on technique and ran a decent clip for the sheer fun of it. The route had become alive with memories of seasons past personalities graduated. In their own way they were saying good bye to an old friend. It was the last time many would be training on this run. When they arrived there were smiles by the seniors.
The guys drank their Exceed as the girls finished running. Coach Bob knew they would do the sit-ups in a line guys and girls a full team Dennis would join doing his sit-ups first. Coach Noel Scott watched the line and he counted the 40 sit-ups. He was happy to be a party of it all. He had a weekend plan altered but that was fun. He cared about the whole team. The community fed the intensity the story had been in the paper about the bust and unlikely hero. He realized how radically Ace had changed. The drug use of NBHS was better hidden in the school but if anything heavier the openness the other challenges to Ace's character had been a blow torch. Denton in reality had far less drug consumption period. Denton had been torture for Ace but the trials had produced a man who had a hometown of New Braunfels but a character distinctly different. Bo reminded him of a couple runners he left behind. French Fries was mini Bo. He was looking forward to having French Fries as a forward. Tom had all the characteristics of a goalie. They did the push ups as Coach Bob commented "It was my first year coaching that both teams made it regional’s." Coach Noel Scott confessed "This is the first time I had been a part of it." As the team departed to the locker room, Coach West said “Tomorrow I will call both teams out for recognition.” Coach Bob said "Thanks."
When Ace got home had snacked some and his mother and dad arrived another half pound of meat was shoveled down. The tension was still there. He had discreetly asked his parents not to show up to district. The fact Stephen King had volunteered to run JV was omitted from the press reports in the school newspaper and the local paper,yet it was common knowledge at the school. Even despite that her son as reluctant hero was boosting her stock. It looked like the football team was going to play their last district game Friday at Unicorn stadium. They were play off bound. The tension was there. Her son ate mentioned grades and then quickly retreated to the Mac doing his homework as she did the dishes. He listened to his father relate tails of the counter drug unit and how he was going to be deployed since he was still Chinook current to South Korea. Sunday their son would fly in a rented Skyhawk for currency after the homework was done there was some guitar playing then silence after the shower.
Friday morning jeans were pressed team shirts were made to look good. Whatever lint had been on letter jackets was removed. It was pageantry to be celebrated Friday. The C in Ace was still purple a symbol. Encouragement was shared with the volleyball team and football team as well as the Monoceras and band nerds. The rivalry was joking kidding between the different groups all in good nature. Anna was now back to full monocera. Kathrine was her enjoying her last year double dipping. Classes were attended with their focus till that last period. The workout was a joint Kohler. Coach Bob made it clear that he wanted everybody presentable for the Pep rally.
It was a light stretch on the track then a gentle acceleration across the football practice field for Ohio. They were quiet each runner had their own thoughts making the last systems checks mentally checking their status against the known model of the UTSA in their head. It was a very leisurely pace but like an engine run up before a flight was all precise. The mile took about six to 8 minutes run then it was back for the pep rally. The guys sponged bath the pits that had gotten sweaty and put the jeans back on along with the letter jackets with two except that had metal. Yet all the hardware was hugging down.
"Will the Regional bound boys and girls crosscountry team please report the center of the gym floor?” Bo, Tom and Ace had big smiles as Tara, Dennis, joined. Ace walked out with his teammates happy. Serg noticed the tear in his eye. Toms smile was infectious. Amanda had a gleam in her eye and she reached over to Ace's shoulder. Her hand was on it. She had given him credit for the fact she was not the solo act. The whole team linked arms. As they did Tom said when we leave shout Unicorn football the team passed it on. The three and a half months of toil had reached its climax. For Tom it was send off. Amanda was happy for her old sisters her new sisters and the change of the brothers. Serg had a big smile on his face from the mouth that normally cracked the jokes. Ace absorbed the cheers of his high school he had fulfilled a journey. As they walked off the guy’s bass and the girl’s higher pitched voices all shouted the surprise to the football team. Dennis had a face pink he had been at the end and the shout caught him by pleasant surprise. Tom was amongst friends his team that had gotten unforeseen glory. Amanda had captured the sense of fun and was learning. Linda had not felt betrayed by her team which had not desecrated her little brother's memory. The loyalty of sweat was quite real. The guys did take defeat the loss of the star a blow they went on not allowing to defeat them. Tara was enjoying the fame of being a part of a group of girls and guys even if she was not the star. It had been a heck of start of a school year.
At 7:30 the team would show up at Ace's house for a special showing of the video Breaking Away. Everybody was giving a plate chek mix with Wheaties added. Coach Noel and Coach Bob watched it along with Ace's mother. Bo had not seen the movie. Tom had. Leisha's brother had told her about what Noel Scott was like. For Leisha it was touching a common ground with a family member. For Ace the story was ending...it was a linkage. The tone for the guys was set scamps without the odds on their side the underdogs winning finding pride. Kimber realized why the story was fitting. The bold daring attitude had broken through the girls. As the movie ended the 14 members headed home and sleep would find them easily that night.
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