Stadium Renovations

Melia Rasmussen, Staff Writer

Track season of my freshman year was kicking off in early April. Every practice, after two warm up laps and stretches, my teammates and I would throw our unnecessary layers of clothing up on the bleachers to get practice started. I rarely smiled in the first week of April, for my good friend was sick with pneumonia. I ran through the warm-up laps with robot stiffness and lack of expression. Every day was stressful and filled with depressing thoughts; I just couldn’t get them out of my head. She said she’d be fine, but I always thought that pneumonia was fatal. I always worried to extremities, so how was I supposed to know if she was going to get better? Class without her sitting next to me was bad enough. I went to track to laugh with my friends, to use that brightness to work to improve and get stronger. If she got worse–if she missed more school and more practices–what would that do to me? I didn’t want to think about that.

     So on the practice after a meet, the coaches stopped the majority of the athletes to tell us something, and I was relieved for a change in the routine. I watched the long distance runners leave through the front gates while we hung back. She’d be running with them if she wasn’t sick. I pushed those thoughts away.  

     “We’re going to finish cleaning out the space under the stadium,” the coaches told us. “Put all the equipment in a storage container.” So I followed the other throwers to the bottom of the stadium, where the garage doors were open to reveal empty spaces and cluttered piles. Stacks of measuring tape and scoreboards were missing. The milk crates that held the shot puts and discuses were set on the ground, outlines of dust giving hint to where they used to reside.

     Everything was to be cleared out so the renovations could begin. We’d already thrown out the old mats hidden away above the concession stands–back when my friend–anyways. Workers were later supposed to come in and refurbish the rooms under the bleachers. One that held a machine with a warning sign, the locker rooms, and the empty spaces on the other side.

     My teammates and I began the long train of track and field athletes, going back and forth carrying boxes, flags, poles, and stakes to a shipping container near the soccer field. Thin squares of wood made for an unbalanced walkway so we didn’t have to step in mud. That didn’t help much when I tripped on them while carrying a crate since someone else stepped on the opposite side and raised the wood. Regardless, I found cleaning was a nice break from the usual practice.

     At one point, Wadlow and then now graduated, Alyssa Walls found vintage Dutch Bros. cups and months old gatorades. My friend got to keep one of the cups, still wrapped in plastic, as well as one the gatorades. I got to keep the other, an electric red berry with a design I’d never seen before on the labels. My friends urged me not to drink it, seeing as it was six months past the expiration date, but I figured there was enough sugar in the drink to preserve it. I ended up giving it to someone else after a few drinks anyways–he needed it more than I did. Stick to water–way healthier than 28 grams of artificial sugar in your systems.

     We cleaned out the space, with all of our equipment stacked carefully in the cabinets set in the storage container. We were able to adapt and wait for those already in the container to leave with their equipment before entering ourselves. That didn’t put much of a delay on gathering and putting them away before and after practice, we just had to become more spatially aware so as not to hit someone coming in with a pole. If anything, that helped us be more courteous to one another and respect personal space.

     Working with the other athletes during those practice was a grateful distraction. Focused so much on cleaning and throwing this away, I rarely felt an upsetting thought about my friend in the hospital. I thought the atmosphere was friendly, not overly serious or depressing like I’d felt for the last few practices. Welcoming. I was helpful in something I could control, and it felt good to be appreciated.