MoboReader > Young Adult > Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College"

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Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College" By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 20224

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


It was a noisy crowd of students that assembled at the Winthrop athletic field on that day early in May when the trials for the track team were to be held. Keen as was the interest in baseball the interest in the track team was even keener, for hope was high among the students that a championship team would be turned out and the competition among the eight colleges that composed the league was at fever heat. The most formidable rival of Winthrop was Alden, and, as within the past four years each of the two colleges had won the championship twice, the coming contest would decide the possession of the cup which the association had voted should be held in the permanent possession of the college which had won most of the meets within the limits of the five years.

Will Phelps was keenly excited although his movements were very deliberate as he walked about the field clad in his running suit, over which he was wearing his bath robe. His desire to secure a place on the team was so strong that he hardly dared face the possibility of a failure. The disappointments of the year would in a measure be atoned for if only he might win the coveted honor. He had carefully followed the instructions of Wagner, the captain of the team, who though, by his physician's orders was not to compete, was nevertheless deeply interested and for some reason had taken an especially strong liking to Will Phelps. Upon his advice Will had retired early the preceding night and had secured a rest that made him now feel that if ever he was to win, the present opportunity was the supreme one.

"Don't do your best in the heats, unless you have to," said Wagner as he approached Will on the field and stopped for a moment to chat with him. "Save your strength for the finals."

Will smiled but did not reply. In his present state of mind he was wondering if he could run at any pace that was not his best. The events were being run off now and he was striving to become interested in them. Anything that would call his thoughts away from himself and his own contest was to be desired, he thought. Foster had tried and failed to win a place and Peter John Schenck too had not been successful. Was his own chance better than theirs? He could hardly believe that it was, and yet if determination could aid he knew that his lack, if he should be found wanting, would not be due to that cause.

At last the supreme moment arrived and the call for the first heat in the hundred yards dash was heard. Will's heart was beating furiously when he cast aside his bath robe and tossed it to Foster who was waiting to receive it. His room-mate smiled encouragingly but was too wise to speak and Will advanced to the line. He perceived that three others were with him in the heat, but Mott, whom he most feared, was not among the number. That was a source of some consolation, and his hope increased that he might at least win a place in the finals.As the pistol was fired, Will darted forward from the line, but in a moment the runners were recalled and Will was penalized a yard for his undue eagerness. Grimly he took his place this time a yard behind the line and when the start was again made he sped down the track as if he was possessed of the speed of the wind. Easily he was the first to touch the tape, but when unmindful of the cheers of his classmates he turned aside to don once more his bath robe, Wagner approached and shaking his head, laughed as he said, "You forgot what I told you, freshman."

"What was that?"

"Not to run your best in the heat. You want something left for the finals."

"I couldn't help it," said Will grimly. "What was the time?"

"Ten, two."

Nothing more was said as they all turned to watch the runners in the other heats. Mott with apparent ease won his, and Ogden won the third. The final was to be run off between the three winners and Will stretched himself upon the grass to gain such rest as he could obtain before the supreme test arrived.

Other events were now run off and a half-hour elapsed before the final heat was called. "You'll get your place on the team anyway, Will," said Foster encouragingly.

"I'm not so sure of that."

"I am. I heard Wagner say that three would be taken on the team for the sprints, and even if you come in last you'll be sure of a place."

"I don't know. I don't want to come in last."

"Don't, then," laughed Foster as he reached forth his hand for his room-mate's bath robe. Once more Will stood on the line and this time there would be no "sneaking," he assured himself. Somehow the keenness of his previous excitement was gone now and he was almost as calm as if he had been a spectator and not a participant in the contest. He was none the less resolved to do his utmost and when the pistol at last was fired he leaped from the mark with every nerve and muscle tense. A silence rested over all as the three runners came swiftly up the track. Will could feel rather than see that he was ahead of Ogden, but Mott was still in advance of him, and do what he might he did not seem to be able to cut down that yard by which Mott was leading. Swiftly the racers sped on and soon Will could see that the end of the course had almost been gained. Only fifteen yards remained to be covered, and then by one supreme effort Will called upon all his reserve powers and with what the college paper afterward described as a "magnificent burst of speed," he cut down Mott's lead and a moment later the two runners struck the tape exactly together.

A mighty shout arose from the assembled students and Foster and Hawley both of whom were usually so self-contained ran out and threw their arms about the neck of their classmate. The enthusiasm increased when the time was announced as "ten, one." and Wagner came forward his face beaming and his hand outstretched as he said: "You did it, freshman! I knew you could, and I knew you would."

Words of praise had never sounded sweeter in Will's ears. He had won a place on the team and that coveted honor at least was his.

His interest in the trials was mostly ended now and he returned to the dressing rooms, where he donned his ordinary garb and then rejoined his fellows. Their congratulations were sweet in his ears and the very appearance of the beautiful valley to him seemed to have changed. He had won and the stimulus of success was his.

In the month that followed Will found himself excessively busy. He took his meals now with the team at the training table and every day there was work to be done on the track. And it was hard work too. But the demands were almost forgotten in the elation which filled the heart of the young student. His father's warm words of congratulation were prized most of all, but Will felt that he did not require the caution which his father gave him not to permit his success in athletics to interfere with his work for the classroom. Even "Splinter's" demands had lost a part of their unreasonableness, or so it seemed to Will, and even the detested Greek could be mastered under the glow of success that was his.

At last the eventful day arrived when the meet between the colleges was to be held. Will had worked so hard and so faithfully that he was not without hopes of winning some points for his college and he was aware how much they were needed and how eager all the student body was that the cup might come to Winthrop. Mott was the only one who had appeared to be at all envious of him, but as Will had heard that the sophomore had been careless in his training and there had been reports that Mott and Peter John had been drinking heavily again, he felt that he could well afford to ignore the slights. And in his heart he knew that he was sincere when he declared to himself that if he could not win he heartily wished that Mott might, for Winthrop would be the gainer in either event.

The team had been taken to the city where the meet was to be held, on the day preceding the contest, and that night at the hotel Will endeavored again to follow the advice of Wagner and secure a good sleep. But his excitement and the novelty of his surroundings and thoughts of the impending meet were too keen to be entirely overcome by the young freshman, and on the following morning his heart was somewhat heavy and his fears increased.

When at last the hour arrived when the team, in a huge coach, was taken to the field, a measure of calm had returned to him and as he looked out over the great assembly his interest became intense. Students from the various colleges had been assigned sections in the bleachers and streamers and banners with the huge initial letter of the college emblazoned upon them were much in evidence. The colors of the competing colleges were also to be seen among the spectators and with shouts and cheers and songs to be heard on every side Will felt that this was the supreme moment of his life. He stood gazing at the inspiring sight until he felt a touch on his shoulder that caused him quickly to turn about.

"Why, pop!" he exclaimed delightedly as he perceived who it was that had touched him. "I didn't have the remotest idea that you were here."

"I had to come to see what my boy would do," replied Mr. Phelps quietly.

"I'm afraid you won't see much."

"I shall see him do his best, and that's worth the trip."

"Come on, freshman!" interrupted Mott approaching. "It's time to dress."

Will grasped his father's hand for a moment and then hastened to follow the other members of the Winthrop team who were making their way to their quarters.

"Alden is going to win all the sprints," said Mott glumly while they were dressing.

"If they're the best runners they will," assented Will who despite his eagerness was now in good spirits.

"Wagner has figured it out and says if they do win the sprints they'll take the cup."

Will made no response though he knew that if Wagner had indeed said that, then the college would look to Mott and to himself to do their best. No praise would be too high if they should succeed, and no blame too severe if they should fail. And his

own determination and desire to win for a moment faltered. What could he in his first great contest hope to do?

The appearance of the team on the field was greeted by a wild shout from the Winthrop contingent. The team was cheered and every member of it also was cheered by name. The entire scene was certainly inspiring and Will's determination returned more strongly than before. The first event was the four hundred and forty yard dash in which Alden received first and Winthrop second. In the one hundred and twenty yard hurdles the order was reversed, and so the record continued through the two-twenty, the two-twenty hurdles, the eight hundred and eighty yards run. The field events were also being carried out at the same time and with very similar results. Alden was second in the shot put and Winthrop second in the running high jump while neither scored in throwing the hammer nor in the running broad jump. But again Winthrop was first in throwing the discus, but Alden was first in the pole vault; and so the points scored by each of the two rivals remained the same when at last came the trials in the hundred yards dash, which as we know was the event in which Will Phelps and Mott were entered. The color had fled from Will's face and he was hardly conscious of the shouts or presence of the great assembly when he advanced to the line, for he was to run in the first heat. Thirty-two men were entered for the race and there were to be six heats, only the winners in each to qualify for the finals.

"You've nobody to fear here," whispered Wagner encouragingly. "Take it easy.""I'll have to come in first if I get in the finals."

"Yes, but you can do it all right."

Wagner slipped back and the seven young men took their places on the line. When the pistol was fired Will darted forward and held the lead all the way, touching the tape first of all.

Wagner again was there to receive him and as Will fell into his arms he turned quickly and said. "What was the time?"

"They'll announce it in a minute," replied Wagner compelling his friend to don his robe. When the time was announced as "ten three," Will's heart sank, but Wagner laughed gleefully as he said, "Good! That's the way to do it. You've got some reserve left."

Will Phelps was not so confident, but he turned eagerly to watch the other contestants. Mott won his heat in ten two, each of two heats was won by an Alden man in the same time, and the fifth heat was won by a man from a smaller college of whom no one expected much and who was but slightly feared.

The mile run, the two mile run, and the half-mile were run off while the sprinters were waiting for their finals and the excitement became intense when it was known that the score of Winthrop and Alden was exactly the same. Everything now depended upon the result of the finals in the hundred yards dash.

"Phelps, you must get it!" whispered Wagner whose face was as pale as that of the freshman. Will did not reply and at once took his place beside his four competitors.

"On your marks!" called the starter, and the silence that rested over the field became intense.

"Get set!" A sigh seemed to rise from the assembly and all were standing.

"Go!" The crack of the pistol was heard and instantly the runners were speeding down the track.

The day was warm and Will Phelps could feel that his face was as wet as if he had plunged in the river. Never in all his young life had he exerted himself as then. The tread of the running feet on the track seemed almost like that of one man. On and on they sped, no one looking to the right or left. Whether he was winning or not, Will was unable to determine. He knew that all five were "bunched," for he could feel and hear the others near him. The deafening shouts and the shrill calls and cries sounded faint and dim in his ears. He could see the officials standing near the end of the course-an end that seemed far away for all that the runners were so swiftly approaching.

Nearer and nearer the runners drew and the shouts increased in violence. Every one in the assembly was standing erect and leaning forward, breathless with interest. Fifteen, ten, then only five yards remained. With one supreme effort Will darted ahead. He felt the tape, and not knowing whether he had won or not he plunged into the outstretched arms of Wagner.

For a moment everything was dim about him and there was a sound as of a roaring in his ears. Then above the din he heard the wild shout of the Winthrop boys and he heard Wagner say, "The cup's ours, Phelps! We've got it! We've won it!"

"Was I first?" inquired Will simply.

"No, second."

"I don't see then. Who did win?"

"Crafts from Tech was first and you were second and the Alden man third," said Wagner hilariously. "You put us two points ahead of Alden! You've won your 'W' and we've got the cup!"

Before Will could respond a body of the Winthrop boys made a rush upon him and lifting him upon their shoulders advanced to the middle of the field followed by the entire body of their fellow-students. Then in fantastic steps and winding column they marched about the field, singing their college songs and uniting in their college yell for the team and for Phelps again and again. The interested spectators stopped and watched the proceedings until at last the team returned to their dressing rooms and the day was done.

On the return to Winthrop Will was seated beside his father, and as they drew near the college town Mr. Phelps, who was not to stop, but was at once going home, said: "Well, Will, what of the year? It's done now."

"Yes," responded Will simply. "It's not been so bad."

"What about the Greek?"

"Oh, Splinter's not half-bad either," laughed Will. "I think I'll go down and see him before I come home.""I should. And you're not sorry that you didn't give up to Greek?"

"Not a bit."

"And you think winning the 'hundred' to-day is worth it all?"

"It isn't that. It's the feeling that I haven't given up. Of course I'm glad to get my 'W' and I was mighty sorry not to get my numerals. But this makes up for it. I'm glad I won out for myself and more for the college. I tell you, pop, Winthrop is the best college in the world!"

"And you wouldn't like to leave now?"

"Leave? Well, I guess not!"

"I hear that Peter John is not to come back," said Mr. Phelps soberly.

"Why not?"

"I can't say. I don't even know that he is not to return. I have heard it, that's all; but I fancy you know more about it than I."

Will was silent till the train was near Winthrop. "Well, Will," said his father, breaking in, "I'm to leave you here. Do you want to know what I value most in your year's work?"

"What is it?"

"That you've learned how to work. When a man learns that, much of the problem of his life is solved. Some men run from hardness, some endure it, and some overcome it."

"It hasn't been so hard."

Mr. Phelps smiled but all he said was, "Good-bye, Will, we'll look for you soon at home. I think you've made a good investment this year."

"In what?" inquired Will in surprise.

But his father only smiled and grasped his son's hand for a moment and soon the train pulled out from the little station; but as long as the crowd of students, noisy, boisterous, happy, could be seen as they moved up the street he watched them with shining eyes. Then as he resumed his seat he thoughtfully said to himself, "Yes, Will has learned it. I did not know for a time whether he would or not. But he has and I don't think Splinter, or Mott, or Peter John, or anything, or any one can take it away from him now."

And he resumed the reading of his evening paper, while the noisy train sped on bearing him farther and farther from Winthrop, but the Winthrop college boy was nearer to him all the time.

THE END

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