As we fly above the island of Guam, looking down on the calm waters of the Pacific, a mixture of cerulean and midnight blues, ghostly clouds whispering past, I realize that despite our promise to have a Guam reunion, this will probably be my last visit. It’s not that Guam is the most spectacular of the island nations we have visited, but it’s the memories, and the journey of my son as a runner, that I will miss. Last night was the first time I let my guard down and allowed myself to admit that this is my baby’s last year in high school, that after this year our lives will head in a new direction, and it was the first time I let the tears fall.
As I said, Guam is not extraordinary, but its close proximity to Japan makes it a good destination for a quick getaway – or a Cross Country Invitational. The sand, although not as soft on the feet as it appears, is as white as the sands of the Caribbean with a smattering of seashells to add character. The turquoise waters are crystal clear, leaving no mystery as to what creatures might be lurking beneath your feet. But it was neither the sand nor the water that beckoned us to Guam. It was the Asia Pacific Cross Country Invitational.
During Trevor’s sophomore track season, he discovered that he can run. Having neither the bodybuild for football nor the innate desire to pummel someone, he chose cross country over football in the fall of his junior year. His rationale – “If I’m one of the top 7 runners, I can go to Guam.” Turns out he was number one. Hence, our second visit to Guam.
Having learned last year that it tends to monsoon in Guam, and having lost 2 cameras, 1 iTouch, and 1 calculator to said-monsoon, we were a bit better prepared this year. Donned with our Hilton golf umbrellas and last year’s leather sandals that somehow survived the deluge, we headed for Okudo High School at sunrise. Guam didn’t disappoint, and although you could only call this a torrential downpour, it was much muddier. By the time the boys ran the course, they just had to slosh their way through the muck and trenches – most to personal records.
Running toward the finish, no longer caring that I was spattering mud all over me, I waited for that first glimpse of Trevor rounding the bend and cried as he crossed the finish line, coming in second behind some phenom 10th grader who runs 3 times a day training for the Olympics. (We don’t actually count him!) ASIJ finished in first place in the Team Relay competition, first place in the Boys’ Team division and runners-up in the Girls’ division; the combination of these results crowning ASIJ as the Overall Champion of the Asia Pacific Invitational 2011. This is why we had come.
Day two is the fun day, although more important than I realized. As per the coach’s instructions, our #1 and #2 girl/boy relay teams needed to keep the Seisen/St. Mary’s teams in sight. #3 and #4 needed to finish strong. They exceeded expectations. Aki and Trevor and Michelle and Jeremy surprised all by finishing first and second. George and Mina finished fifth, and Kai and Hannah, ninth, assuring ASIJ the overall title.
But this story isn’t just about them. It’s about enjoying time with friends – Kathy, Yuriko, and Kelly – enjoying the best Thai food outside of Thailand, choosing a pair of flip-flops for Kathy after her first pair snapped and she had to hobble to the restaurant, stalking our kids at the awards banquet, talking and laughing on the walk back to our hotel, making promises that we would all meet again in Guam, and after two strong rum-and-cokes, finally allowing those tears to fall.