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One Time I Was a Champion

by Ron Kurtus (revised 30 April 2012)

Have you ever felt like a champion? Many people have allowed themselves to become discouraged, such that they never become a champion or feel like one. I remember a time when I overcame some setbacks and finally really became a champion. Let me tell you that story.

Too slow to make the high school team

When I was in the 7th grade, our gym teacher timed all the boys in a 50 yard dash. I came in third from last. The only boys I could beat were the two real fat kids in our class who could barely finish the race.

But I liked to run, and in high school I went out for the track team. After a try-out, the track coach told me that I wasn't any good. He said there wasn't any room for me on the team.

Kept trying and made the college team

But I still loved to run. I practiced. And I studied.

I read how Glen Cunningham overcame serious burns on his legs to become a champion miler. I read how Jesse Owens tried different ways to hold his hands while he ran, just to cut down wind resistance. And I practiced some more.

When I got to college, I again tried out for the track team. This time I made the team -- barely. So, I kept practicing and trying to improve.

Made it to an international meet

By my junior year in college I had improved enough to represent the school in the famous Journal Indoor Track Meet, held at the Milwaukee Arena.

What a meet! There were world-class runners and Olympic champions there. The world record in the pole vault was set at the meet that night. There were television cameras and 12,000 people in the stands.

And I was competing there, too.

Saw old coach

As I jogged around the track, warming up, someone yelled out from the stands, "Kurtus! Ron Kurtus!" It was the old high school track coach, who said I wasn't good enough to be on his lousy team.

But I didn't hold a grudge and went over and shook his hand.

The big race

Then it came to be my turn to run in a race. I was nervous, but I tried to do my best. And how did I do?

I came in dead last.

In fact, I was so far back in the race that most of the people in the stands had already left the Arena, and the clean-up crew was starting to turn off the lights!

After the meet

After the track meet, I went to a party. Everyone there was slapping me on the back and saying, "Hey, Kurtus, I saw you at the Journal Games" or "Hey, Kurtus, I saw you on TV."

I was a champion that night.

Lessons from this story

Do your best

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