Olivia's First Race
By Ashlin Awerkamp
(Based on a true story)
Olivia shifted back and forth on her bike, rocking from one foot to the other. She ran her fingers over the gear shifts as she watched the other contestants line up around her, most of them juniors and seniors. One looked over at her and sneered. She gulped and clicked through the gears again.
Mountain biking was still new to her. She had started practicing with the high school team just two weeks ago. It was hard work to pedal her bike up and down the steep, bumpy hills. On the first day, she crashed into a tree. While she was sitting and sniffling, Coach Whitney had personally walked over, helped her up, and encouraged her to keep trying. Then, at the last practice before the race, Coach Whitney had explained one of the racing rules. “Sometimes people get a flat tire. If you need someone to help you change your tire,” she said, “you get a five-minute penalty.”
The odds of getting a flat tire seemed low. She hadn’t seen anyone get a flat during their practices. But Olivia didn’t want to get a penalty—she needed all the racing time she could get—so that night she asked a neighbor to teach her how to change the tires on her bike, just in case. He showed her how to pull the old tube out of the tire and slip the new one in. It was tricky, but she figured it out.
Now she was at the race, and she hoped all the hard work she put in paid off. The buzzer sounded, and all the bikers took off. Olivia pedaled hard. She zoomed up and down the hills and whooshed around the turns. She was more than halfway done when she heard a popping sound and felt her bike wobble. She lost control and tipped over, scraping her arms on the dirt. She looked at the back wheel. A thorn had gotten wedged in the tube. A flat tire!
Olivia moved to the side of the racetrack and watched the other racers speed by. She felt her cheeks flush. In just a few seconds, the racers disappeared around the corner, leaving her alone. How humiliating. Everyone must have seen her crash, and on top of that, her arms stung from the fall. And what would her family think when she crossed the finish line minutes after everyone else? Tears welled up in her eyes. Was it even worth finishing the race?
She looked at the tire. At the thorn that ruined her race. Olivia frowned and pulled the thorn out. No. She wasn’t going to let her success be determined by a little thorn. She flicked the thorn away and thought about what her neighbor had taught her. She got the spare tube and tire lever out of her bike pouch and knelt down. She wedged the tire lever, which looked almost like a shoe horn, between the tube and the rim. She let go of the lever, and it popped out. One of the nearby officials started to walk toward her. “Do you need help?” he called.
“No, I got it!” She retrieved the lever and got it firmly wedged in. Then she pulled the punctured inner tube out and slid the new one in. It took some wiggling and pushing, but she got it in. Fixed!
Olivia jumped back on her bike and continued down the racetrack devoid of other racers. When she made the final turn toward the finish line, the crowd cheered. She crossed the line and got a big hug from her mom and Coach Whitney.
“What happened?” her mom said. “We kept waiting and wondering where you were?”
Olivia shrugged. “I got a flat. It took a bit of time, but I got it fixed.”
Coach Whitney clapped her on the shoulder. “I am so proud of you for changing your own tire. Not even all the fastest racers know how to do that.”
Her mom agreed. “It was very responsible of you to learn how to do it yourself.”
Olivia smiled. She was glad she had learned how to change her tire and glad she had been responsible. She felt like she could learn how to do anything, and nothing—not a thorn, not a flat tire, and not even herself—could hold her back from being a racer.