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Authors: Rich Wallace

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Fast Company

BOOK: Fast Company
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Table of Contents
 
 
ON YOUR MARKS!
On the backstretch, he could hear Anthony and the others yelling his name. Manny’s breathing was fierce.
Hug that inside lane,
he remembered.
One lap gone, and he could sense Serrano just off his shoulder. Manny ran harder.
Serrano went wide on the turn and pulled alongside Manny, his legs and arms churning. Manny moved out slightly, too. He had caught the runner in front of him, but he needed to get past before Serrano boxed him in.
Suddenly the three of them were running abreast. The runner in blue accelerated. Manny matched his pace, but his arms and legs were growing tighter. As they headed into the final turn, Serrano was forced to move into the third lane in an attempt to get past the other two runners. They came onto the homestretch inches apart.
Every step was an effort as Manny sprinted for the finish. He could see DiMarco waving his arms, and Manny grimaced as he extended the baton and his teammate grabbed it.
ALSO BY RICH WALLACE
Restless: A Ghost’s Story
Losing Is Not an Option
Playing Without the Ball
Shots on Goal
Wrestling Sturbridge
 
Winning Season Series
The Roar of the Crowd
Technical Foul
PUFFIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), Cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England First published in the United States of America by Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005
 
 
Copyright ® Rich Wallace, 2005
All rights reserved
 
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE VIKING EDITION AS FOLLOWS: Wallace, Rich. Fast company / by Rich Wallace. p. cm.
 
Summary: When sixth-grader Manny Ramos, one of the fastest runners on the youth football team, joins the new track club, he hopes that his light weight will be a benefit in racing against more experienced guys.
eISBN : 978-1-101-10005-9
[ 1. Running-Fiction. 2. Teamwork (Sports)—Fiction. 3. Competition (Psychology)—Fiction. 4. Size—Fiction.] I. Title PZ7.W15877Fas 2004 [Fic]—de22 2004012480
 
 
 
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Garion, Cheyenne, and Ben
1
A new Opportunity
M
anny and Anthony hauled their football equipment into the big storage area behind the middle school gym. The coaches were packing the stuff away after a successful season.
Assistant coach Lou Alvaro took Manny’s helmet and said, “I’ve been waiting for you, Ramos. I’m starting a new program that’s perfect for you.” He handed Manny a photocopied sheet of paper:
HUDSON CITY CHARGERS
Youth Track
and
Field Club
Practice starts December I at the high school
track.
-Indoor meets in winter
-Outdoor meets in spring and summer
-Road races year-round
Coach Lou Alvaro
“That sounds awesome,” Manny said.
“Yeah,” Anthony said, grabbing a corner of the paper and reading. “I’m definitely up for that.”
“You could throw the shot put,” Manny said.
Anthony frowned. “Yeah,” he said slowly, “but I could run, too. I ain’t that fast, but I lost twelve pounds during football season. If I drop a few more I’ll be chasing you around.”
Anthony Martin was the biggest kid in sixth grade and towered over Manny, who was barely five feet tall. He’d been a starting football lineman on both the offense and defense. Manny had mostly played on the kickoff squad.
“I love racing,” Manny said. “Where are the indoor meets? Our gym is too small, isn’t it?”
“Mostly in New York City,” Coach Alvaro said. The young coach was tall and lanky. He worked with the receivers during football season. Some days he would run wind sprints with the team, and he always outran everybody.
“The New York Armory Track and Field Center has one of the best indoor tracks in the country,” Coach said. “And they have a ton of meets. We’ll compete there three or four times this winter, plus a few meets in Jersey City and at some of the colleges.”
Manny had been one of the fastest kids on the football team. And when they ran long distances—like five laps around the field—he always finished ahead of everybody else.
“I’ll probably run the mile,” he said.
“That’s what I figured,” Coach Alvaro said. “And Anthony, you can run whatever event you want. I don’t care how fast you are. I want people who are ready to work hard and have fun.”
“That’s me,” Anthony said. He grabbed Manny under the arms and lifted him into the air. “Is there a Manny throw, Coach? I could toss this guy about fifty feet.”
Coach laughed. “No, but Manny’s right. You’d be a great shot putter. You can run, too.”
Manny tried to wriggle free from Anthony’s grip. “Can you put me down now?”
Anthony set Manny down and grinned broadly. His chubby brown cheeks seemed to glow. “We should start running today,” Anthony said. “Want to go to the track?”
“Yeah,” Manny said. “In about an hour. I gotta stop at home first.”
“Me, too,” Anthony said. “And I need something from my locker.”
Manny carefully folded the paper into neat quarters and tucked it into his shirt pocket. The boys walked through the gym toward the school’s sixth-grade wing.
“I am so psyched,” Manny said. “I love to race. It’s like pure effort, you know?”
“I can imagine,” Anthony said. “Like sacking a quarterback or something.”
They turned the corner in the hallway and Anthony stopped walking. “What’s that?” he said, pointing to his locker.
A small piece of paper was taped to Anthony’s locker. It said, ANTHONY: THE HAPPY HIPPO in red letters.
“That is so stupid,” Manny said. He walked over and tore the paper from the locker. “What, are we in kindergarten?”
Anthony shook his head. “Jerks,” he said softly. He opened his locker and took out his math book.
“So stupid,” Manny said again.
“Forget it. I’ve been hearing crap like that since I was born.”
“Yeah, but that’s so pathetic,” Manny said. “A sign on your locker?”
“You think they’d say it to my face?” Anthony raised his eyebrows and made a fist. “I don’t think so.”
“What babies.”
“Forget it,” Anthony said again, but Manny could tell that he was hurt.
 
“Let’s get out of here,” Manny said, and they headed for the exit.
2
On Trach
M
anny jogged all the way home. He could run all day. He’d been a scrub on the football team, but he knew he’d do well in track.
Five-year-old Sal was sitting at the kitchen table when Manny arrived home, drawing a picture of a truck. He was a smaller version of Manny, with dark, curly hair and deep brown eyes.
“Donald called you,” Sal said. “Right after you left.”
“Probably wanted to go drop off his football stuff with me.”
“He said to call him.”
“I will.”
Donald had been Manny’s closest friend for several years. Both had tried out for football for the first time this fall, and both had spent most of the time watching from the bench.
“Guess what, Sal?” Manny said. “There’s gonna be a track team for kids. Isn’t that great?”
“Yeah!”
Sal adored his older brother. “You’re the fastest guy around, Manny,” he said. “Can I be on the team, too?”
“Hmmm.” Manny kneeled and looked his brother straight in the eyes. “You could run under the hurdles, maybe.” He tickled Sal.
Sal laughed and broke away. “Really. I want to run.”
“Tell you what. You can run with me sometimes. And in a few years, I’m sure you can get on the team.”
“I’m really fast, Manny.”
“I know it, buddy.”
Manny dialed Donald’s number and let it ring six times. Finally Donald answered.
“You turn in your stuff?” Manny asked.
“Yeah. Where were you?”
“I went earlier. I tried to call you.”
“I slept late.”
“You hear about the track team?” Manny asked.
“Yeah,” Donald said flatly.
“You up for it?”
Donald’snorted. “You kidding? Running is punishment, man.”
“No,” Manny said, drawing out the word. “It’s beautiful.”
“For you maybe,” Donald said, laughing. “You’ve got bird bones or something. Or invisible wings. For the rest of us, it’s torture.”
“So you could do the long jump,” Manny said. “Or the high jump.”
“I’ll think about it,” Donald said. “But I doubt it. Anyway, you want to come over and watch TV or something?”
“Can’t,” Manny said. “I’m meeting Anthony at the track to work out.”
“You guys are crazy. Work out for what?”
“Track. Practice starts in two weeks. We want to be ready.”
“Whew. Gonna be cold all winter,” Donald said. “I think I’ll be hibernating.”
“You’ll miss out.”
“I’ll survive.”
 
Anthony was standing on the track stretching when Manny arrived. Even though he’d lost weight, Anthony still had a heavy body. He was wearing a gray sweatsuit and a blue knit cap with an orange Mets logo on it.
“You warmed up?” Manny asked.
“Pretty much. You?”
“Yeah. I ran all the way over. What should we do?”
Anthony shrugged. “Sprint, I guess. I never ran track before. You’re the expert, aren’t you?”
“No way,” Manny said. “But I think we should start out slow and build speed after a couple of laps. Let’s try that.”
“How far?” Anthony asked.
“The straightaway is 100 meters,” Manny said. “Why don’t we run the straights and walk the turns? I tried that a few times during the football season when I was mad about not playing.”
“When I get mad, I eat,” Anthony said. “We’ll try it your way.”
They walked along the first turn. Manny broke into a steady run as they reached the backstretch, and Anthony stayed with him. But it was obvious that Anthony was going nearly full speed just to stay with Manny. He was already puffing as they reached the beginning of the second turn.
BOOK: Fast Company
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