Monday, August 6, 2012

(I know I usually write about Eli, but I wrote this for fun. Eli’s counts are going up, so he and Vic went to Toys R Us today. He is doing very well. The Household Item Drive is going on. If you are in Athens, you can drop-off at the Grasshopper downtown or at Hobbs Street Church of Christ on West Hobbs Street. If you are in Madison, you can drop off at Madison Church of Christ on Hughes Road. The deadline for Madison is Wednesday, the deadline for Athens is Thursday. Also, I apologize for the look of this post. I can't figure out what's going on, but I don't think it is on my end.)
Athens Bible School high school sophomore Christy Weatherford (Leopard) sat on the in-field of the Troy State University track stadium to stretch with her teammates Seniors Bethel Bradford, Leatha Smith (Ogden) and, little sister, freshman Amanda Smith (Holloway) before running the 400-meter relay at the 1986 Alabama State 1-A-2A High School Track Meet. As she stretched her short legs out in front of her and put her head down to her knees to reach for her toes, she saw in the corner of her eye a set of black legs walk up beside her seemingly reaching into the clouds. Looking up and shielding the sun from her eyes she squinted for a face. “Our coach told us to come warm up with ya’ll because you must be doing something right,” said the girl as three more long-legged black teammates from Warrior, Alabama stepped in behind her. Taken aback, but quickly recovering, Christy agreed with an invitation for the competitors to join them as they all prepared for the race. The girls track program at ABS was only three years old in 1986, but it was competitive and memorable and not just because it was a team of short white girls competing and winning in a sport where mostly tall black athletes excel, but also because the girls were running and winning in skirts. The ABS relay team had been a thorn in the starting block all season for many teams present at the state meet that day in May. The relay foursome had been nicknamed by other teams as The Flying Nuns because of the religious affiliation of the school, the flapping of the heavy polyester culottes they wore as part of the uniform because of school dress code, and because when they ran it looked like their feet never touched the ground. Most great sports stories feature an underdog, that person or team that is inferior to an opponent and not expected to win a challenge, but through perseverance against the odds or maybe even through the goodness of luck ends up the victor. It surely makes for heartwarming and inspiring stories, but, these girls were not underdogs. They were superior in their skill and God-given talent, but did not take those gifts for granted and worked hard toward perfection. It didn’t matter what school you cheered for, they were exciting to watch in contrast to other teams. I was a junior that year at ABS, a small private Christian school. School athletics for the boys had been going on many years, but the girls program was only about five years old having started with volleyball. The dress code at school called for the girls to always wear a skirt or dress, and for P.E. we wore culottes. This dreadful apparel monstrosity is knee-length pants cut as full as a skirt so as to resemble a skirt as it is worn. The all-male school board that did not wear skirts or culottes made no exceptions for athletics for the girls, so if we wanted a team we had to play in our culottes. So, the volleyball team played in homemade culottes (because where in the creation of fashion trends were we going to find store-bought culottes) made out of heavy kelly green polyester and we bought volleyball uniform t-shirts. With the success of the volleyball team both in interest and talent, the girls program was expanded to include a softball team, track, and cross-country. But, what was not expanded were the uniforms. We even wore the volleyball shirts in the other sports for a while. In 1986, the track team included 13 girls, most of which were just athletes from volleyball and softball. The school was small enough that if you played one thing, then you pretty much played all sports. So, I was one of the 13 that year but only to throw the discus and to run any races that Coach Murrell did not want to tire his good runners with so that the team was awarded a participation point. I was kind of like Smalls in the 1993 movie Sandlot. The culottes were a pain, especially in softball where we were required to wear cut-off sweatpants with elastic sewn in the hem underneath our culottes to make sure our underwear didn’t show when we slid into a base. This was before spandex or bike shorts were invented – again, we made our own. The only time I remember it being a performance issue is when Leatha, one of the Flying Nuns, was participating in the high jump. When she cleared the bar, the culottes leg would drop and knock the bar off. It was incredibly frustrating because she was clearing the height. Other than that, I don’t remember it being an issue beyond being extra hot, heavy and embarrassing. We didn’t worry with any of the Under Armor and personal “equipment” peripherals that has grown a multi-billion dollar industry in our country. My generation is the last of “if you’re gonna play, then play” before the “I’ve got to have my special glove, wicking socks, sport-specific cleats, Under Armor shirt, black under my eyes, blah, blah, blah before I can play” generation took the field. If you are good, then you are good and it doesn’t matter what you wear. ABS was runner-up over all at the 1986 state track meet out of 33 teams, but The Flying Nuns set a school and state record in the 400-meter relay of 51.55. Bethel set a 100-meter dash state record of 12.52. I don’t know if the school has seen track success like that since that group or not, although ABS girls are competitive in most of the sports offered which has expanded to include basketball, tennis, soccer and golf. Go, Lady Trojans, hey!
The Flying Nuns are: on the bottom bleacher left, Amanda, right, Christy, who is also sporting the ABS sports uniform used for all girls sports. On the second bleacher, on the left is Leatha, and the right is Bethel.

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