SI Vault
Rob Eaton
November 14, 1983
Cross-country is a reservoir of memory and sensation. It is the sound of labored breathing, the smell of analgesic, crude jokes, bright autumn mornings, teammates, laughter, sweat and spit, pain, disappointment, the devotion of a coach. This is the story of one season.
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November 14, 1983

The Cross-country Team Was So-so, But The Coach's Mark Was Indelible

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Les grins; he is incorrigible. "He still doesn't look very fast. I think we can beat 'em. Beat Roach. What d'you think, Monster?"

Monster—the nickname derives more from his competitive instinct than from his appearance—is the only senior on the team and normally our top runner, but he is recovering from mononucleosis. He mumbles gruffly, and Les jogs over to pacify him.

We come slowly around a field and back to the starting area and gather around Coach. He is a doctor who's connected with Vanderbilt University's medical school and is himself a competitive runner, donating his time to coach us. He will be 40 this year, but he looks younger.

"How do you feel, Robbie?"

"O.K., Coach."

He watches me for a minute while I stretch. I trained hard over the summer. We both know I should run well today. I hope I do. I know I am thinking about it too much.

He turns to Caldwell. "Are you ready to go, Bill?"

"Yeah, Coach."

"Is that your sister?"

"Yeah, she's a freshman this year."

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