I guess this might be the first installment of what I could end up writing. I series of memories that stick out in my mind much more than others while I was growing up skating.
The year is 2003, the place is Indoor Nationals. My first in standard to be specific. 2002 was the first time I ever earned a National Medal, a gold in the JO Elementary 2-boy, a race that I can still describe lap for lap.
2003 started like a good year but nothing special. I competed in my division locally usually placing anywhere from first to third not much lower. Overall for most of the year the league title for Elementary boys was a battle between myself and Andrew Shatzer. As the year progressed racing starting becoming a little easier. Well, 300m and 500m started becoming easier.. Any sort of long race was may arch nemesis until about 15-16. Yes, 700m was a long race. When I say easier, I mean I started winning more of them regularly. At our regional championships that year I got 2nd in the 700m, my worst race of course. I remember my dad was less than pleased. I tried to tell him that I still had two of my best races coming up. I ended up winning regionals after winning the 300m and 500m races. For me, the bigger win was that I broke two regional records, both held by Chris Creveling in elementary. Both of which I think still stand and I can still remember to this day: 300m 29.49 and 500m 50.16.
I don't think any serious expectations were set for me going into Nationals. I wanted to win of course, but realistically I had never made more than one individual final in a single year, in JO and now I was standard. But nevertheless, if there was any chance it was the 300m and 500m.. the 700m was still the nemesis. I remember my 500m heat, there was only like 4 of us for some reason and 3 qualified. One kid looked like he could barely skate, knee pads and all so I was confident. I remember getting off the line, I had developed the start at a young age I think 2003 was when it became really good. I was in first heading into the first turn and something happened, I fell down. Naturally, pissed off not because I had aspirations that I would win the race overall but because I knew I should be moving on to the semi-finals and I wouldn't. I might of sat on the ground after the fall for a brief second. Got up a little slow and then started skating again. I guess a lap or two later I decided to start sprinting, mostly in frustration. I almost caught the kid in third, the one with the knee pads.
Ever since I started skating for Jeff the very first thing I did after a race was go over and talk to Jeff in the coaches area of the floor. Even last year, I still skate up to Jeff as soon as I'm done. Sometimes it would be simple but there was always something to be said and always will be. Well, this time there was a lot to be said. Jeff was not happy with me. Not because I fell, or because I lost, didn't qualify, etc. Jeff was upset because I could have gotten up faster, I could have started sprinting faster, I could have caught up and I could have qualified after the fall.
All the year's I've skated for Jeff winning become normal but if I lost and I came off the floor and simply said, "I didn't have it today." That would have been enough for Jeff as long as I still gave it my best shot. (I don't think I ever once admitted that 'I didn't have it' mostly because I found new ways to win without 'it'.)
Back to the story, even at this age I was never afraid to speak up if I thought I was right. So I tried with Jeff, but I was wrong. I came off the floor even more pissed. So I did what I always did at that age: I took my stuff off, grabbed my music and isolated myself. I skated my 300m with a vengeance because I could hold a grudge. Not on anyone but just in general if something made me mad I kept it with me so I could use to to fuel me. I finished third in the final for the 300m. I knew then exactly what I had to do in order to place overall. I had to get top 3 in the 700m and not like Jordin Stelly beat me, who got third in the 500m which meant we were tied for third overall. I told myself I could do it but in the back of my mind I knew that it was a long race so I could be in trouble. I made it to the final, so did Jordin. I still had a good start so I used it, getting out to second in the final. I battled with Kevin Quandt for second the whole race, eventually settling for third at the end. When the race was over I found out Jordin ended up getting disqualified. But either way I got my third, I got my first overall placement as an individual at nationals that year.
I guess this memory sticks out more then others because of the fall in the 500m. That might have been the last time I took my time getting up from the fall. I don't think it was because I always had a chance to catch up, but I didn't want to disappoint again.