Cloudy
43°
Cloudy
Hi 49° | Lo 33°

Young Writers Share the Thing Inside That Drives Them to Succeed

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with audiences through the Newspaper Series (and youngwritersproject.org) and the Schools Project (ywpschools.net).

Support: YWP is supported by this newspaper and foundations, businesses and individuals who recognize the power and value of writing. If you would like to donate to YWP, go to youngwritersproject.org/support.

This Week: Introducing the Inspired Project: Young people write about what inspires them to succeed. Autumn Eastman, a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School, is one of the premiere distance runners in the state and is part of one of the most successful Vermont school running teams ever. The CVU girls cross country team has won the state championships, won a New England championship and had several runners in the nationals in the last few years. Last fall, YWP asked Autumn to journal about her running, to show what it is like and explain why she does what she does so hard and so well. Autumn’s story sparked the idea for a special YWP project, in which young people write about what inspires them to succeed. This is an excerpt of Autumn’s first piece, called Discovery , which appears in its entirety on youngwritersproject.org. We will publish additional pieces later this year, and you can follow Autumn’s blog at youngwritersproject.org/blog/7838.

Journal entry, before a recent high school race: I wake up to that familiar feeling in my gut, a turmoil that reminds me of the challenge that I am about to face. It’s race day. I didn’t sleep very well last night. I tossed and turned, and when I did sleep, I dreamt about running and racing and outcomes good and bad.

I get up and unfold the red, black and white uniform that represents me as a runner, my accomplishments, the team’s accomplishments and the races to come. I dress in my “lucky” outfit — we runners are quite a superstitious bunch — which means the same socks, same sports bra, same hair ties and includes the same breakfast, same routine every race day so we can reassure ourselves that this race day will be a good race day. All of this is mental, I know, but racing is a huge mental game. And whatever helps me cope with that stress of not knowing the outcome of the race before I race, I go for it. …

It’s been a long time since I first started to run, since I discovered that this is something that could drive me so. When I was really young, I remember on bright, cool, fall days, watching my Dad tie up his mangled sneakers and head out the front door for the occasional run. When I turned 8, I told him I wanted to tag along with him. His face lit up. We jogged down the road a little ways and came back. My stride was three times as short as his, so I struggled to keep up. But we kept at it.

I went through the same sports most young girls go through: ballet, soccer, horseback riding, the occasional tag and hide-and-go-seek.

It wasn’t until middle school that I discovered cross country running. Hayley, my best friend then, told me to do it with her. At first, I was in the same mix as everybody else, but then I grew, seasons passed and my reasons for running changed. I was no longer running for friends, I began realizing I was good at it. In eighth grade, when I ran with my Dad, I was no longer slowing him down; I was right with him, and I felt good doing it. And during races I started developing my own little methods for coping with the stress; every runner I passed or was with, I would either talk to or exchange a “good job.” I was a one-girl cheering squad roving through the woods, and, for some odd reason, each time I offered a word of encouragement to another runner, a burst of energy entered my body, and I kept furthering my strides to the next runner.

And then there was this one race. As we were milling around in the open field, we spied tables covered with trays of cookies and other sweets — prizes, we learned, for the winning runners. I decided that Hinesburg Community School was going to win one of those plates.

I strode to the front of the pack and soon led the team and then the race. And as I sprinted toward the finishing stretch, I began lapping a couple of the boys in the back. Crossing the finish line, a gray-haired woman ripped the tag from my bib and sent me on my way.

A short time later, at the awards ceremony, they called my name to receive a huge plate of cookies. I was overjoyed. And grabbed a couple.

“Aren’t you going to share those with your team?” my Dad asked.

I admit to just a twinge of reluctance, but agreed. Within moments they were gone. But the sweet taste of victory made the wheels turn in my head; I wanted more, I wanted the feeling of another win.

Writers! Are you inspired?

Write about it on youngwritersproject.org. Use keyword, Inspired.

Not a writer? Contact YWP for help: sreid@youngwritersproject.org