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Ignoring fatigue

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Alicja Pawelec, a sophomore volleyball player at Francis Lewis HS, started running track this outdoor season. This diary chronicles her crazy Saturday, shuttling between a club volleyball tournament and the PSAL Queens Borough championship meet.

My chest hurt with every breath. It felt like thousands of tiny needles puncturing my lungs. My legs felt weak, wobbly, as if I would collapse with another step.

I could barely stand, but I was preparing to run as fast as I could.

Trying to ignore the pain, I took one last look at the competition and focused on the track that lay ahead of me. Butterflies would always fill my stomach before a race, but this time, before the 4x400-meter relay at the Queens Borough championships, it was worse than ever.

That morning at 9 a.m., I arrived at Queens College for a volleyball tournament with my club team, Creole Big Apple. After playing in one game, I left for Bayside HS, the site of the track meet.

Within 15 minutes of being at Bayside, I was on the track, ready for the 400-meter run. Coming straight off the volleyball court, I had a weak start. After getting boxed-in right at the beginning, it took extra strength getting out. My legs carried me to the last straightaway before giving out. I finished third in my heat and seventh overall (1:04.54). I was disappointed in myself, knowing that this was one of my weaker performances this season.

I didn’t want a similar showing in the relay. I had 45 minutes to rest, but it was hardly enough. At the gun, I shot out of the starting line as the first leg. Gripping the baton tightly, I ran, forgetting how weak my legs felt. At the 200-meter mark, I started to sprint with the finish line in sight, passing two girls to gain second. Within seconds I was feet away from my teammate, Faith Gibbs, holding out the baton. She seized it and after making sure it was firmly in her hand, I let go.

My team would finish fourth in the event and fifth in the Queens Borough championship, but I couldn’t stick around long afterward — I had to race right back to Queens College to finish the volleyball tournament. I played in two more games and, despite the fatigue, I stayed in to play every set in both games.

My day wasn’t over yet, though. I went home, changed and headed back to QC for a Creole fundraiser.

When the craziest day of my life finally came to an end, I was glad it was done — but proud of myself for getting through it.

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