On The Clock

Chapter 30, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Stopwatches don’t lie – enough. Despite racing away with the club events, I could not break 1:49. Instead of improving, I was stuck on a plateau or worse, fading.

It was simple. I needed better competition and no more train wrecks like Terre Haute. But Harry had trouble getting past Terre Haute. My angry burst of speed mystified him.

“Criminy! We have to figure out how to light that firecracker of yours, Charlie,” said Harry, scratching his chin. “We can’t have you fall on your ass every race.”

“And cuss everyone out,” I added.

“That was the best part,” Harry said. “I thought I had seen it all, but I did enjoy that immensely.”

“Glad you liked it,” I said. “Personally, I thought it sucked. I could have gotten hurt a lot worse than I did.”

“Don’t know who was more horrified,” said Harry. “The fans or the club president. He would not shake my hand or even look at me. You know how I hate poor winners.”

“So what the hell do we do now, coach?”

No more club races, he said. Despite USA Track and Field sanctioning, they could not help me produce a qualifying result. I needed a 1:46.50 – and fast.

“Doggone it! I gotta run against somebody better.”

Harry’s eyes flashed.

“For probably the very first time, Charlie, I think you are right.”


That narrowed the options significantly. By design, there were only a precious few opportunities, outside of college competition, to run in meets with enough pre-Olympic Trials firepower. I wanted a meet close to home. Harry wanted to go to California. We settled on the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. They were the next weekend, April 24-26.

To procure an invite to such a premier event, Harry had to phone everyone he knew in Iowa. He might have dropped a few dollars under the table, too. But I wasn’t supposed to know anything about that. Since I didn’t have the time or money to go to California, Harry warned that Drake would be my best – and maybe only – chance to qualify.

“Really, Harry, do I need any more pressure? Want to tell me the fate of the free world is riding on this, too?”

“Charlie, we’re talking Beijing 2008. As you know, it’s a Communist country.”


“Do not limit it to just the free world.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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