November 3, 2000
By Johnny D. Marquez
When I was younger I was one bad little vato. Well I was in 6th grade, but it was all the same to me. I went to school at Zia, and in Tucumcari, Zia was the only predominant Hispanic school of it's time. There were 3 other elementary schools back then, Mountain View, Granger and Buena Vista.
Towards the end of the school year we would have a track meet against all the other schools. They were all scared of us. I don't mean scared of our physical abilities, I mean scared we were going to beat them up. I'm guessing it was because we were Hispanics and we were suppose to be mean. Well, we were kind of, but hey we were just kids. I was the faster runner in my school and I hadn't ever lost a race that year. Well when we got to the track meet I won the 75 yard dash. I only had one more guy to beat and I would be crowned fastest of all the schools.
As I got ready to run the race of my life I met the guy who was going to take my crown away. His name was Rod David, and we met in the 100 yard dash.
As I stood there in my stance, I watched him getting his blocks ready for the race, I didn't even know what a starting block was! Then I saw underneath his shoes and there were spikes on them, I thought, what the heck is going on here? He was even wearing shorts. I thought to myself "you've got to be kidding." I looked down at my levi pants, my red white and blue long sleeve shirt and my worn out tennis shoes, and I realized I was in trouble.
He kept telling me that I would probably beat him. At first I thought he was just messing with my head, but later in life when I got to know him, I saw what a nice guy he really was, and man was he fast. My Tio was my coach and he had been proud of me the whole year. As the gun shot off I realized I was in real big trouble, he was out of there like lightening. Mi Madres frijoles with all their protein weren't going to help me now. He ended up beating me. I'm embarrassed to say it now, but I cried pretty openly after I lost that race.
After all these years I look back and wonder what if? What if my oldest brother Carlos would have been into sports like Rod's brother were? Knowing my hermano, he probably would have hammered nails into my shoes and told me to go away. Why didn't my Tio know what a starting block was? I always wondered why he would make us put our feet against a pile of rocks and dirt when we would race at our school. The truth is we were just a bunch of poor Hispanics in a poor Hispanic school. We didn't know about all these little things you need to know to succeed in even a race. I learned 2 things from that race in 6th grade. 1. If you're going to do something do it right. Study it, learn all you can about what it is you are trying to accomplish. 2. Never wear a crown. No matter how bad you might think you are, eventually, someone will knock it off of your head.
Marquez is a writer from Tucumcari, New Mexico