I feel like I'm writing the last chapter of a story that I don't want to end. It's the story of a boy who is growing up and the role a high school cross country team has played in his life. Over the last four years, I've been a cheerleader along every course, urging him toward the finish. I've seen how his training efforts result in better times as each season progresses. But, it's the social growth and sense of self that have come from the camaraderie and positive aspect of this team that has been a true gift.
For the last three years, Caleb has run the Three Course Challenge in Seaside, Oregon. We've always made a family trip of it. We have established all of our favorite activities, favorite shops and favorite restaurants. Caleb spends the night with his team on a high school gym floor. He works out on the beach and runs an unusually challenging course. It always makes for a really great weekend and this year was no different.
Alyssa got to bring along her dear friend Maison and Grandma and Grandpa Seely also joined us this year.
We headed to the beach as soon as we got into town.
While the girls did handstands and cartwheels in the sand, we adults were flying kites.
Do little girls get any more adorable than this?
There were all sorts of sand creations along the beach, but I was partial to this Seahawks stadium:
Natalie later got to meet up with Emma (who was in town to watch her sister run), which made beach play exponentially more fun.
The sunset over the Pacific Ocean that night could not have been any more stunning.
Caleb had been playing (and working out) on the beach with his team. His coaches took some fun pictures that they later shared with us parents.
It really is a great group of kids.
They divided into groups for some games, one of which included building a pyramid.
It warms my little heart to see my boy, to whom social interactions and inclusion do not come naturally, being held up by teammates willing to support him and linked arms with friends who cheer each other on.
After a spaghetti dinner at the high school where they also spent the night, it was time to draw chips to see which of the three courses each runner would run the next day.
Caleb drew the red chip. The hard course. It really should be called the brutal course. He'd run it before and was not happy to have to run it again his senior year. It's just truly that hard!
I have to admit that this was the outcome I was secretly hoping for. Because it's his senior year, I like the idea of him having to push himself to his limit.
This is the hard course group:
Caleb is showing his two thumbs down:
Meanwhile, we were having a blast at the arcade. Fascination is so much stinkin' fun:
Much to my chagrin, Nat demonstrated her uncanny claw game-winning abilities and acquired an armful of new friends.
Jon was in his happy place with Ms. Pac-man.
"Who dat talk 'bout beat dem Ravens?
Who dat, who dat, WHO?!
Who dat talk 'bout beat dem Ravens?
Who dat, who dat, WHO?!
Let's get fired up, Ravens put them claws up
Who, who, who?
We made our way-- and it's a LONG ways--to the mud pit to wait for Caleb to come through. The mud was really thick this year and took an untold number of shoes prisoner. While waiting for the next group of runners to come through, several kids were digging for lost shoes.
This course is not about time. It's about perseverance. Even the strongest of runners can expect to add at least 4 minutes to their usual time.
Caleb did persevere. And he made it to the finish line with both shoes on--which is more than many runners could say.
I hate that these memories have to come to an end. Seaside is always a good time, but it's so much more than that to me because of the growth cross country has provided in this place. Growing up is part of life and I'll forever be grateful for what running cross country in Seaside has represented in that process.