Hawking A Sports Fiction Novel For The Olympic Year (Themes: Running, Swimming, Pole-Vaulting)

The Olympics will be upon us on August 8, 2008 and the U.S. roster has been filling fast in recent weeks. Of particular interest to me were the Swimming and Track & Field trials. Those two sports figure prominently in the sports-fiction novel A Reason To Try by Tom LaLumiere.

Here is a synopsis:

Coming from a troubled home and a problematic childhood, Brian Coulombe was the last person anyone thought would achieve anything at Cavalcade High School back in 1981. After a near-death experience jolts him back to reality and he discovers his affections for one of his female teammates, he finds within himself a desire to strive higher and work harder. Beginning as a sophomore and all the way through his senior year, Brian learns how to do the most difficult event in track and field: the pole-vault. In his efforts to reach his goals, he learns that working inside the rules is what allows him to soar. But when his dream girl finally tells him “no,” he slips back outside the rules and must work to rebuild his world. With the help of his friends and his desire to become the best, he learns that there is always a reason to try.

And here is an excerpt from the book.

In this scene, Brian is competing in the pole-vault at the Stanton Invitational Track & Field Meet being held at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The bar is set at fouteen feet and six inches, a hieght that seventeen-year-old Brian Coulombe had never cleared before. Not only is he dealing with the pressure of this being a personal best, he is also dealing with the fact that if he clears the bar, he wins, but if he misses, he goes home in second place.

Brian walked over to the edge of the track to have a talk with his coach.

“Mr. Hoskins. Do you have any last second advice?”

“I have a last second question. How many misses do you have compared to him?”

“I have one more miss than he does. I would lose on the tie-breaker if I miss this one.”

“Well, then. The only advice I can give you is ‘don’t miss.’ Brian, sometimes you have to stand out on your own and bear the full brunt of a situation completely by yourself. This is one of those times.”

As Brian was making his way back to the pole-vault area, Ellen, who had been doing a warm-up jog with the two-mile relay team, stopped him. He was a little surprised at this and wondered what she planned on saying to him.

“How are you doing in there?” she asked.

“Well, if I make this jump, then I win. If I miss it, then it’s second place.”

Brian tried to keep his eyes on her but kept darting them in different directions.

Ellen smiled, looked directly into Brian’s eyes and said, “Hey, Brian. How bad do you want it?”

Brian returned the smile and walked back to the pole-vault runway and picked up his pole. After Ellen spoke to him, a calm washed completely over him. He felt no pressure at all. On the runway, he knelt down for a minute and then, for the first time ever as a pole-vaulter, did the “Sign of the Cross” in traditional Roman Catholic style and said to himself, if God is willing then so am I. He stood up on the runway and stared down at the box. Like that of his competitor, his own pole came up and down several times as the waiting for the most perfect moment continued. When that moment came, Brian lifted his pole and began his sprint. At the seventh step, his right hand thrust the pole directly over his head as he made the plant and then went airborne. His rock-back and kick-through inverted him as he could feel himself being shot skyward. He could feel no mistakes, no anomalies in the motion. As he crossed his right foot over his left, he knew that he would clear the bar. With less than half an inch to spare, he passed over the bar and began his descent into the soft pits below and his biggest victory yet.

Brian stood up in the pits and began his celebration dance by doing a standing back-flip. He then exited the pit and began jumping up and down and rolling his clenched fists towards the sky. Never in his life had he felt such a feeling. He calmed down enough to receive congratulations from the referee and the other vaulters and then looked over into the team area where he was being given a standing ovation. That made him feel even better. Ellen was applauding and cheering along with everyone else. What more could he have asked for on this day?

The awards ceremony was quick, but notable. For the first time at a major track meet, Brian was standing on the Gold Medal platform. At least five photographers were there to snap pictures of the top three placing pole-vaulters. Then he went back to the team area to relax and wait until it was time to leave. Everyone on the team offered personal congratulations and added comments like: “Awesome!” or “Fantastic!” or “That was amazing!”

A few hours later, even though the meet was still going on, all of the Cavalcade athletes had completed their events, so the team packed up and headed home. The bus ride back to Temple Hills was as quiet as the ride out. Just as he did after the State Indoor Meet, Brian slowly caressed the medal hanging around his neck. He looked up towards the front and saw Ellen with her head leaning against the bus seat and her eyes closed. Around her neck she wore the gold medal for the Girl’s mile. They were the only two gold medals for Cavalcade that day.

A REASON TO TRY available from Barnes & Noble

A REASON TO TRY available from Borders

A REASON TO TRY available from Books-A-Million

A REASON TO TRY available from SeekBooks New Zealand

A REASON TO TRY available from SeekBooks Australia

A REASON TO TRY available Chapters.indigo.ca Canada’s Online Bookstore

A REASON TO TRY available from Amazon.com

A REASON TO TRY available from Amazon UK

A REASON TO TRY available from Amazon Canada

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