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200 Meters

When she draws the outside lane, I mumble my displeasure, then look my daughter in the eyes.

“It’s the toughest lane to win from.  You’ll think you’re leading, then as you come out of the turn, the entire field makes up the stagger.”

“I know, Dad.” Even though she’s only twelve, she’s already run this race a dozen times for our track team.

“Don’t let ’em catch you, baby.   You’re fast enough.   Strong enough.”

She’s trained hard this season—the onus of being coach’s daughter—just like the season before, and the season before that.  She sips from her water bottle, tosses it to me, then walks across the track on long, sinewy legs below team red running shorts and white tee.  She sets herself in the outside lane—toes the line, leans forward, head down—focused.

At the crack of the starter’s gun, she’s the first one out, already increasing her staggered-lead.  Leaning into the turn, her long legs lithely reach ahead, turning over like a sprocket, driving her, arms pumping synchronically, hands slicing ahead, ponytail waving blondely behind.

As the grandstand cheers, no one catches her out of the turn and she continues an indomitable pace down the straight-away never relinquishing her lead until she crosses the finish line first in personal best, meet-record time.

As the officials take her race sticker to record her victory on their clipboards, I jog across the grass infield, a privilege I’m granted as head coach.

Panting deeply, she finger-laces her hands atop her head, spreading her arms and chest to increase her lung capacity, just as I’ve coached her.  When she sees me, she smiles wearily, happily, and leans into my arms.

I hold her, a privilege I’m granted as Dad.