Eli 11.9 and the Big Track Meet (part two)The 4x100 relay started at the same time as the standing broad jump, so when Eli made it over to the jumping area (which was a section of track, not a pit), there was a long line in front of him.
"This is bad," he said. "I'm going to get stiff."
"Just jump up and down, or take practice jumps," I said. "And this isn't bad--it's great. You're going to know exactly how far you need to jump, and there are only a few kids behind you."
There were some tall, tall kids in that line. Surprisingly, though, none of them could jump. They all wound up in the 6'6" to 6'9" range.
The best jumper wasn't tall. He was about Eli's size, and he uncorked a huge 7'1" jump to lead a full three inches. He was the only kid to get his heels onto a white lane divider line.
"Okay," I said, "you see that lane line? You have to jump to that point. Only one kid has done that, so if you get there, you have a chance. Just think about exploding into a save."
"This is your event, not his," I said. "Remember that."
There were only a few kids in front of him now. Then there was one. Then it was his turn.
As Eli assumed the ready position, it was easy to see the difference between him and the other kids. He was so fluid, so graceful, just bending and swinging his arms in preparation to jump. And when he did jump, he flew a long way, his heels just short of that white line.
"6'11" ", called out the judge. The other kids stopped goofing off and started paying attention.
There was a slight headwind, and I didn't know if that was going to cost him an inch or two. I hoped not.
His second jump was bigger, and his heels made it to the line. "7'1" ", called the judge, and he held up his fist toward me.
It was a tie.
The thing about standing broad jump is that you jump what you can jump. You can almost always jump your best, but improving your best usually happens in tiny increments, like half an inch. There's no boom. So Eli was tied, he'd jumped his lifetime best, and he was still jumping into a headwind.
I didn't know if he would win in case of a tie, but I was proud of him. He's nails.
He lined up for his third jump, and so many things crossed through my mind in those few seconds. Eli lives for big moments like this. He does things that are hard to believe. Even for him, though, this was a tall order.
When he jumped, he exploded.
When he landed, kids started shouting.
The judge looked at her tape measure.
"7' 3"," she said. He pumped his fist at me, and his smile was so big that I could barely see the rest of his face.
He couldn't even stay. They were already on the second call for the 50 finals, so he took off.
I knew he wasn't going to win the 50 after qualifying 6th. And he didn't, but he ran a blazing race and finished fourth.
The 100 finals were only 15 minutes later. While he was warming up, I walked over. "Second place in the standing broad jump," I said.
"... was 7' 1"," I said. "Congratulations."
"YES!" he said, and he gave me a hug.
"Good luck the hundred," I said. "Explode out of the start."
He didn't listen to me.
Well, he did, but he didn't manage to explode. Here's a blurry picture at about 5 meters into the race:
See that kid woefully behind in Lane Eight? That's him. That's the worst start I've ever seen.
Now look the finish (you can just see his foot and leg in Lane Eight, because I'm a lousy filmer):
At the finish line, it was fairly chaotic, and they told him he was sixth. It certainly doesn't look like it from that picture, though. He walked over to me after the race.
"Dad, they said I was sixth, but I was fourth," he said. "Those other two kids were behind me."
"No matter," I said. "It was a great race. You turned on the turbojets. And points!"
"Points," he said, smiling. "That's right."
I went over and looked at the team scores while he hung out on the infield for a while to see some of his friends run. His team scored 28.5 points. He scored 27 of those, including the relay, and if they'd given him the right place in the 100, he would have had 31.
I looked at the team standings and noticed something. I walked back to the infield and found him.
"Before I tell you this, you can't say this to anyone," I said.
"Okay. What?" he asked.
"You're in fourth."
"What?" he asked.
"You're in fourth," I said. "In the team standings."
He raised an eyebrow.
"By yourself," I said.
His eyes got wide, and he started laughing. "Seriously?"
"Seriously," I said. "Let's go home. I think you've done enough for one morning."