Winning Essay by Natizia B., Talladega College
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I had never been so nervous in my life. It was time for The Carver Classic Track Meet, and I was asked to throw in it? I could not understand for the life of me why Coach Chestnut would want a first-time thrower to be a part of something so important to the Carver legacy. I could see if it were a basketball game, my favorite sport and one that I was good at, but a track event? I was terrified and just knew in my mind that I was going to fail and make Carver look bad in front of the alumni.

As all the other more experienced athletes prepared to start, it seemed like I was on my own. I was ready to run and hide in the bathroom, but what I did not know was that I was not alone. Coach Chestnut saw that panic in my face and the tears I was trying to hold back. He walked right over to me and I hugged him. It was a strong, long hug and I admitted to him, “Coach, I don't think I can do this, I have never thrown in a real meet, and I am afraid to mess up.”

Chestnut gave me a big bright smile. It was as if he prepared for this moment all season. He spoke to me in a smooth fatherly voice, and he said “Listen baby, in basketball season you had to learn how to shoot, right?” As I thought about what he said, I noticed the bright orange Carver shirt that he was wearing, and his matching sweats as if he had come to rep. I laughed a little knowing what he meant by his statement. I had no confidence or faith in myself, until my coach, my hero, my second father showed me that everything started with a first time. He taught me that ‘the water is only cold when you tiptoe in it.’ I worked hard for hours a day, weeks at a time and improved at each and every meet.

Three or four months later I stood on another track with a lot of the same athletes and after all that hard work, I began to feel that same hesitancy as I felt at my first track meet. After all, this was bigger than competing only against New Orleans girls. But this time Coach Chestnut and I stood at regionals already setting our sights on state.

All those months before when I felt afraid and alone, my coach showed me that I always have someone in my corner routing for me. For someone who never thought they would get a medal for a field event, I came out at the top of our district in the Javelin and third in the Discus. Coach Chestnut fought for me even when I stopped fighting for myself. My hero taught me that no matter where I go in life, I will always have to fight for myself.

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