The Youthful and the Young
‘Next year’ is the phrase heard most often following the 2012 Nike Cross Nationals in Portland. From the hotel restaurant post-race, to Sunday morning breakfast in the lobby, to the bus ride to the airport.
Through the lens of NXN, youth isn’t so wasted on the young. On Friday, Saturday — through the entire week leading up, really — the high school athletes in Portland on Nike’s dime manage to simultaneously be hyper-aware of what’s at stake Saturday even as they soak up every minute of a fabulous opportunity. It’s the full embodiment of what an old-timer like Shaw wished for the younger generation: purposefulness, steeped in an appreciation for what a great grace it is to have been born.
There are pre-race whoops in the team camp. Kids screaming into the passing camera from the starting boxes, for one moment getting to live — for real! — that backyard dream of being a star athlete on TV about to compete at the highest level with everything on the line. Running themselves until they’re out on their feet in the homestretch. Mucking in the muddy lake that is the finish corral, and destroying the new and beautiful gear that was so precious to them just hours ago.
Then, once the places and placers are sorted, the phrase is “next year.” How many athletes are leaving Portland believing they can win a national championship 52 weeks from now, I wonder. How many head home steadfast in their commitment to commit themselves to running mile upon mile? Kilometers until they puke? Whether purposefulness will be the hallmark for all of the ensuing months remains to be seen. (In my experience, it will almost certainly waver at intervals — but, for the achievers, only briefly each time.) But to hear young people so hungry and so ready to dedicate themselves to a mountainous goal is a magical thing. To sense their appreciation of a world so ripe with possibility is refreshing.
I know that “next year” will be upon these youngsters like a hangover, in a way they cannot comprehend. That they will wake up in the middle of something, and quickly look backwards. In their innocence, they intone that promise to tomorrow and tomorrow and mean it as much as a person can mean anything.
Hearing it, one can’t help but feel young enough to tackle a new and glittering goal of his own.
Jeremy Mosher is the producer of KIMbia’s multimedia, having directed The British Miler and produced Wisconsin to Worlds, Rookies Vs. the World, and Delilah.