Who says nobody's perfect?

March 06, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

I'm not really sure what the perfect race would feel like - I only ran indoor track for two months my freshman year at North Hagerstown before musical aspirations pulled me away - but after the Maryland Indoor Track Championships 10 days ago, I know what it looks like.

At the start, you've got 1,600 meters between you and a state title. You've also got 11 other runners to contend with.

You go out under control, not wanting to surge ahead too fast and leave yourself with nothing in the tank for the final lap, but also not wanting to fall so far behind the leaders there's no hope of catching them in that lap.


With two laps to go, you need to make a move. The lead pack of four looms about 10 meters ahead. With few of the 1,000 or so in attendance noticing, you pick up the pace and catch up to the tail end of the pack.

The bell rings. One lap left.

You come around the turn to the backstretch. You're feeling good. The arms are pumping, the legs reaching out in full stride eating up the distance. The other leaders are starting to show signs of strain.

This is exactly where you want to be. One turn left. One hundred meters between you and the gold.

Entering the final turn, you start your kick, beating the other four to the punch. In three seconds, you've gone from fifth to first, and you're putting a gap on second - almost five yards exiting the turn and entering the final 50-meter stretch.

Everything has come together perfectly. The pace was right, the move to get into position clicked, and you had enough left to make a final victorious charge to the finish.


If you want to know what it feels like, visit Clear Spring High School sometime soon and ask sophomore Ashley Lockard. The perfect race described above belongs to her.

The race itself was a year in the making. Last year, Ashley - an awkward freshman sporting braces whose eyes showed the nervousness and awe of even being at a state championship - ran what was to that point the race of her life and finished fifth. She may have been the happiest fifth-place finisher in the history of sports. I know. I interviewed her five minutes later.

Ashley still has the same grin, though the braces are gone. Some of the awkwardness is gone, too - she's growing up. But not too fast - she's still unquestionably shy.

Covering cross country, indoor and outdoor track, I've developed an appreciation for the sport, the athletes who participate in it and the coaches who lovingly give their time to it.

But covering the state meet last week reminded me why I've become a fan of track and field - because of kids like Ashley.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at

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