Dunn Neugebauer: August Angst Already

(Photo: Marc Logan/Flash Forward)

When you coach track and cross country, there's not much time for even a victory lap. I know this because I tried it - out on our six-lane track that we somehow hosted a round of the region meets on.

The first 200-meters were peaceful, reflective, meditative - thinking of how much I enjoyed the state track meet at McEachern except for the part about almost getting my car towed. The Flyin' Hawaiian pulling off a state title and another in the relay. How good Hebron's girls were, and Landmark's boys.

At that point, however, I realized - and in an 'Oh-My-Lord fashion' - it's time for summer cross country training. Getting physicals in. Making sure the buses work after they were retired for COVID. Speaking before 100 angle and elbowed kids, all tanned from their summer adventures to boathouses, penthouses, lake houses, all that.

It fits that a track is circular because that's what this sport - heck, every sport - is nowadays. There is no end, not really, not if you do it right. Track gives to summer running what cross country gives to a very short Christmas break, which opens up to that track thingie again.

But wait, back up. If we must travel in circles, we must at least be able to catch our breath - even Landmark's Zack "Metronome" Truitt can't kick for a full year - though perhaps I'm wrong about that. I write this on a screen with changing pictures - there are our 4 X 800-champs smiling big on that Powder Springs morning, there's a podium memory in Carrollton, followed by Jayaraj addressing his troops.

A philosopher perhaps said it best - 'life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." Something like that.

So, cross country...ready or not, here it comes and there's no use in hiding it. Because we'll end in Carrollton up and down that big hill where there IS no place to disappear. Even your team can't help when you're getting up those 17 steps of Separation Slope and that last rise, where it's just you and you and all the Gods you pray to.

Yes, there's magic in Carrollton, but there's misery, too. Just when you think you've spent every emotion, you roll an ankle, a freshman comes out of nowhere, and you shudder recalling your own angst while standing at that finish line wondering where the heck your #5 runner is and why?

Lost in my thoughts, my mind went to the confidence builder that is Coach Wood, though it's coupled with the perils of lugging that heavy tent up that massive hill. That concert atmosphere that is Wingfoot. The heat of the cross country meet that has been Darlington. And let's not forget, the shrill of that Saturday morning - or is it still Friday night? - alarm clock and knowing as a cross country coach you'll never go home on a Friday and be able to set the alarm for Monday.

Won't happen.

Enough from me for now. But still...summer running...cross country season...collecting paperwork...somehow making it to the adrenaline that is Carrollton.

It's all goosebumps - and for so many different reasons. Still, if you have the guts, you'll wipe away your tears, your frustrations, even your glories, and your gains - and you'll lace up your shoes and you'll train to do it all again.

With that said, I must cut this lap short; sprint across the infield, get up to the office. There's work to do.

August, after all, awaits...