By Tim Mollen
Journal entry: May 14, 1986 (age 17)
“Tim, I want you to be one of the captains of next year’s team.” This was the most incongruous statement I had ever heard. But there it was, coming straight from the mouth of my track coach as we walked toward the team bus at MacArthur Park. Dan Consol is a tough, no-nonsense kind of guy, so I had to at least consider that he was being serious.
I have been on Seton Catholic Central’s varsity track team for three years, specializing in long-distance running. It has allowed me to feel a sense of accomplishment, just for being on a sports team of some kind. My poor vision and even poorer coordination have locked me out of most sports. I think what speed I have was developed by running as fast as I could away from football and baseball games.
“Are you sure, Coach?,” I asked. I was having a hard time picturing myself as co-captain alongside Zack Perlick and Andre Duquella, both of whom are also on the varsity football team. Zack competes in the same events as me, and consistently cleans my clock. Andre is an imposing wall of a guy with a high-school mustache that is almost as impressive as his ability to throw me as far as his shot put. Coach Consol has been the shot put and discus coach, but next year he will be taking over as head coach. I worried that an early misstep in the choice of team captains could mar his tenure, like Reagan’s choice of James Watt as secretary of the interior.
“Yes, I’m sure, Tim. You work hard, you’re a leader, and you’re doing really well in the 3,200-meter relay.” Happily, I couldn’t argue with that last part. Today, in a meet against Oneonta High School, the solid win by my relay team had helped us secure a team victory of 87 to 53.
On the bus ride home, I began to enjoy the idea of being captain of a varsity team. This would make all the hard work worthwhile. The solitary five-mile runs from the high school to the Johnson City traffic circle – in the rain – now seemed easy. The endless runs up and down the hill on Laurel Avenue now seemed finite. Doing leg lifts and push-ups in the windowless, stench-laden bomb shelter known as Seton’s “wrestling room” now seemed….well, that still seemed pretty bad.
Most of all, it made up for the embarrassment I feel after most of my long-distance races. I often run so hard that I grow dizzy. By the end of a mile race in which I can see my gasping breath in the frozen air, I have given everything I have. My last bit of energy is used to run past the finish line, away from the spectators and my teammates, and toward a secluded spot. There I perform in my very best event: the lunch toss.
Maybe as captain, I can get that recognized as a sanctioned event.