15 minutes to Bronze

In 2013 my husband, (my coach) and I attended our first National Senior Games event in Cleveland, Ohio. He prepared me to compete in the 100- and 200-meter events. Which I did. In the 200-meter event I took 11th place. Even better I placed 9th in the 100-meter event.  Wow!  Just out of the money for the finals:  but still a good showing for a novice like myself. Next up was the 4×100 relay. It seems teams were formulated and strategized on the fly or maybe not. Because I placed 9th in the 100-meter event, I appeared to be a good prospect for a substitute /alternate competitor. I was approached and asked to sign-up to participate on any 4×100 relay team that may be short a person. My husband encouraged me to go for it. It was a long shot opportunity. Having absolutely no experience or knowledge of relay strategies. How hard could it be? I signed-up. Low and behold, I was placed on a time with 3 world class athletes-each woman had been competing in track and field events since middle and high school and Five decades later these women were still competing at a national and international level. They all had already medaled in several   track and field events during the week.

We introduced to each other just 15 minutes before race time. – As introductions were made and discussions about who would run what leg, my new teammates realized I had absolutely no relay experience. Only one woman voiced her disappointment and openly mentioned that I was messing up her opportunity for an additional medal!  One of my teammates was a high school track coach who stepped up and took charge. She decided that I would run the first leg, which meant I would be handing off the baton once. Thank goodness, I would be handing off the baton to her the second leg. The third leg would be the annoyed woman and the anchor would be a speedster that broke a record earlier in the 400meter event.

With that settled, the track coach marched me to the track and gave me a 15-minute crash course. Although, I usually assume a leadership role; that day I was relegated to the role of track trainee on the fly. The clock was ticking down to race time. I tapped into my listening and teamwork abilities which were on high alert! I used my razor-sharp focus and competitive determination to absorb a barrage of instructions.  The coach demonstrated how to hold the baton, when and where to pass the baton and how to place the baton in her hands on the run, as well as various other instructions. When, I faltered a few times the annoyed woman rolled her eyes and shook her head and looked me in the eyes and said,” We are expecting to win a medal. Don’t mess it up for us!” This was no time to argue, or feel picked on. I HAD placed myself in a situation that I knew nothing about.  I had placed highly competitive female athletes in a situation that they didn’t expect to encounter. After all I wasn’t even a novice I was just plain clueless and inexperienced. Okay! I was determined not to be the one to mess up an opportunity to win a medal. Not going to lie, I WANTED A MEDAL!

I was living the fastest and longest 15 minutes of my life.

 The 15minutes were up. It was showtime.

I heard my name being announced over the public address system: “In lane 7 Madonna Hanna, from Ruston, Washington. Wow! I waved to my husband who was leaning against the rail motioning for me to look forward and focus. The starter pistol went off and so did I. I was determined to run for my very life. I was clutching the blue metallic baton as if my life depended on it. I felt like it did.  As the first leg I would had to run the curve. I had never run a curve in my short track life. I have only run in a straight line as fast as I possibly can. As I sprinted toward the 2nd leg, I saw her take-off. My eyes were locked on her waiting hand which looked as large a movie screen. BAM! I firmly slapped the metal baton in her waiting hand and off she went. I soon lost sight of her. On the positive side, I heard the line judge say,” Good handoff!” 

I was surprised by an unexpected compliment. I was proud that I had successful completed my leg. I didn’t MESS-UP! I knew the only person I needed to watch was the 4th leg.  My eyes were glued on her. She was moving so fast her long tresses made a perfectly straight line flowing from the back of her head. I held my breath as she headed to the finish line in third place. THIRD PLACE. That meant a medal. My first ever medal at a national track and field event. I couldn’t believe it.  I cried tears of happiness.  My husband who was in the stands jumped up and down and cheered!

During the medal ceremony while standing on the podium the annoyed woman was smiling at me. I bent my head and accepted my medal with the pride of a true Olympian. What absolutely blind-sided me…was when all the members of the first-place team who just broke the NSG 4×100 meter relay world record. Yes, they were all world class sprinter, with USA Track and Field rankings and paraphernalia. After accepting their gold medals. One of the team members turned to me and shouted “Good job Madonna!” Her team mates joined her, then the entire audience joined in! Everyone was joyfully shouting “good job Madonna!” My husband was amazed, everyone around him was cheering so he joined in too.  How absolutely, gracious of the first-place record breaking team. They were honoring me! It is a moment and day I will never forget. Talk about sportsmanship! I am happy to share this experience with all of you.  It still brings tears and a smile to my face.

 Readers please know that absolutely anything is possible.  Try new things. Go for it! In 15 minutes, I learned a new skill, contributed to a world class team, and helped them to victory! 

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