It's been three years since I stepped foot on a track in a competitive setting. It's been three years since I laced up my spikes, did my hour long warm up with my headphones jammed so far into my ears I'm sure they touched brain matter. My pre-race playlist was mostly "Wild Boy" by Machine Gun Kelly and just about anything by Kanye West, and you could hear the sounds of it blaring if you were within earshot of me. It's been three years since I crossed the finish line for the last time, throwing my spikes off and bursting into tears.
I was top fifteen in the state of Massachusetts my sophomore year in the 55-meter hurdles, an indoor track event. I wasn't a natural by any means -- I worked my ass off during practice, and I went to train with someone else for an hour to really drill it into my head that I was meant to a champion. Until I broke my shin. Until I tore my labrum. Until my dreams of running collegiately were shattered, sitting on the table in my physical therapist's office as he tried to put my hips back where they belong, instead of twisted all around.
It's been three years since I went to my last track practice, and I still haven't thanked my coach. It isn't easy to be a track coach, especially a high school girls' team. But you did it with ease. You managed 50 girls of all skill levels and events and kicked our butts every Monday and Friday, managing to be enthusiastic and proud on Wednesdays, our meet days. You encouraged us to run until we made ourselves throw up, to push ourselves past where we thought we wouldn't be able to do. You took a team of girls who didn't care about winning, to league champions in a year.
And me? You took an angry and frustrated teenager who liked the aggression of hurdling and turned her into someone who fought her way to the divisional championships. You took someone who had never been athletic into someone who broke school records in her chosen event. You took someone who never thought she'd be good at something into someone who went into every race with the confidence to win. You took someone who hated herself with every fiber of her being and turned her into someone who crossed the finish line and cried out of pride and happiness.
You turned me into someone discipline, strength, and a mindset to win, not just in races, but in school. You taught me I was strong and showed me how to make myself stronger, both with the Crossfit lifts from hell and that losing a race doesn't mean losing the war. I owe you so much of my personality, so much of the parts of me which I am proud of, and I never got to tell you that after I crossed the finish line for the last time and threw my spikes off, bursting into tears that my career was over.
Thank you, Coach Cote, for everything you've done for me. Even three years later.