Among track athletes and coaches, there’s an old adage: “the stopwatch never lies.” That’s true, to a point--there are such things as strategic races run for place and team points, and the time on the watch won’t tell you if it was 95 degrees and humid, or if conditions were glorious. However, the most important number on a stopwatch or a measuring tape is the elusive “PR,” or Personal Record. You can place DFL (Dead Freaking Last) and run a PR, and still count the day as a victory. In the end, our most important competitor today is ourselves yesterday.
I’ve been thinking about PRs lately because my family is moving--having entered the “empty nest” phase, we’re downsizing and getting closer to our grandkids. But moving means packing, and that means touching everything you’ve ever owned. I found a folder in the attic of all of my own high school track results… some bib numbers from races, a few ribbons and medals (not nearly enough of the gold or blue variety), and every single post-meet write-up that my coach put in our lockers the day after every meet, which must have been a herculean chore in those days before Excel, shared documents, and copy-paste.
It’s incredible to me how painfully slow we were compared to the Cyclones of today. Even those of us who were pretty good then, in the latter days of our SCHSL years, would struggle to even compete in today’s SCISA. But we couldn’t possibly know back then what the future would hold. We just laced up our much-lower-tech spikes and gave our very best against the guy in the next lane of the old clay track (hope you all can see that if we’d have had Nike VaporFly shoes and our all-weather Spurtan track in my day, we’d have been MUCH better). But now that future has arrived, and is continually arriving. Just this past week, senior Aidan Gregoire ran his own PR in cross-country, in a 5k time of 16:14 that places him at 4th all-time in Cyclone history. This week he was recognized as one of PG’s five National Merit Semifinalists.
The bar keeps moving up, in athletics, in academics, in the arts, in the spiritual life of the school. And Cyclones keep rising to meet the standard, and to set an example for the ones who will follow. That’s the other best thing about a PR. It’s made to be broken.