Out here, they call me the mighty giant. But in reality, I’m really just a Wisconsin farmgirl.
If you’ve been following the blog at all, you’ll know that I run track and cross country for the University of Dallas. This means that over Christmas break, I not only consume an amazing amount of mom’s homemade bread and Mary’s famously sweet cookies, and studiously avoid dad’s attempts at fermentation, but I also brave the winds and drifts of scenic Highway 33 to run the ridges and hills. When the Polar Vortex hit, our big white farmhouse may have been a cocoon of warmth and woodsmoke, but outside the air was deadly frosty, with windchills hitting 45 degrees below zero. I consider myself to be a pretty tough runner, and I held out for as long as I could. 7 degrees, 4 degrees, 3 degrees…I ran in it all. But I finally came to my senses after ploughing uphill to the finish of a 5 mile run, my lungs begging for warm air and my legs, well, I think my legs would have felt something if they weren’t numb from the wind. It was at that moment that I realized that I have a bit of self-determination that I put to good use. And that I was a bit crazy. So, when the Polar Vortex really did hit, I stayed inside, my breath blowing frost designs on the windows as I admired the swirls and play of the wind and snow outside my window.
When I flew back to Texas after break, track season began immediately, luckily without snow and negative windchills. There is even a little sunshine here, most days. Tomorrow is my first competition of the season, and my coach has taken full advantage of my position on the team: that of the Mighty Giant. Over the past two years of running for UD, I’ve transitioned from being a one or two event competitor to a jack of all trades. Whatever coach wants me to do, I do it. Last year I added the new skills of javelin throwing and the 400 meter hurdles to my repetoire. And tomorrow, my coach has me slated to throw shot put, jump in the long jump competition, run the 60 meter high hurdles, and race the 800 meter run in preparation for a possible pentathlon competition later on this year. For those of you who have no clue what that means (and really, I didn’t until this year), a pentathlon is a contest featuring five events. In indoor track, all four of the above mentioned events are in the contest, and the fifth is the high jump, which I specialized in during high school.
The only catch to tomorrow’s competition is the fact that I have only thrown the shot put once in my life, I haven’t long jumped since I was 15, and as of this afternoon, I have run the high hurdles in practice. But somehow coach has complete faith in my ability to wing it. And somehow I know that I can. It’s not my height. It’s not the training, obviously because as you can see, I haven’t really had any. It’s that I’ve been trained to handle almost anything from birth. It’s that I’m a farmgirl from the Slattery clan. I grew up racing my siblings through the rows of grapes and raspberries out in the big field, hurdling the curling tendrils of grape vines and the thorny clutches of drooping raspberry plants.
I made the long jump off of the first floor roof of our house onto the over-tired family trampoline over and over again when I was eight. I threw thousands of squash in spinning arcs into the arms of James and Clare during the golden autumns of Wisconsin.
So, in reality, I’m not the Mighty Giant; I just grew up on Sweet Ridge Farm.