Winning (DeAnna Lockett)

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BANG! All at once, the eight sprinters spring out of the starting blocks into a strong head wind. With their heads low and knees driving forward, they accelerate around the curve. My heart pounds while I stand planted in the exchange zone blocking out the fierce roar of the crowd. I spot Alice nearing the end of her 100 meters ahead of the pack. I shift my weight back and forth on my balls of my feet. My head dips below my shoulder, and my eyes stay fixed on her cycling feet. It’s time. Adrenaline surges through my body driving one knee forward and the other follows. My elbows swing back and forth until Alice calls, “STICK!”

Without delay, I throw my arm back, palm flat. Alice thrusts the baton into my left hand. I tighten my grip around the baton and dig my spikes into the track. The cheers of my parents, teammates, and coaches are all around me. My body shifts gears. All I feel is the wind carrying me, and to my satisfaction I do not feel the presence of my other competitors catching up with me.

Olivia is less then 20 meters before me, so she pushes her body forward into a sprint. All I can think about is how last year she and I were disqualified at the State Championship at this very point in the race for failing to handoff the baton in the allotted exchange zone.

“Trust your training,” I tell myself, “We’ve got this.”

We are arm’s length apart. I yell “STICK!” She swings her arm back, and I plant the baton in the center of her right hand. I open my mouth to shout encouragement, but my wide smile will not allow my voice to carry very far. I run across the field to meet her on the other side of the track, and my eyes witness the gap stretching between her and the other runners. I reach the 300 meter mark just in time to see Olivia and Hannah execute their hand-off perfectly. A competitor is on Hannah’s heels, but Hannah accelerates.

Alice, Olivia, and I meet Hannah as she crosses the finish line inches in front of our most forceful competitor. With arms outstretched, we pull each other closely and celebrate our first place victory.

Don’t Look Behind You (A Short and Scary Tale by Josie Benson)

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In the darkest shadows, a figure is lurking behind you. The figure is abnormally tall, really skinny, and has many arms. He wears a black and white suit, and he has a featureless face. Don’t look at his face or he will grab you.

You might still have a chance. Run as fast as you can. But beware, he is supernatural and can materialize in front of you when you least expect it. His name is Slender Man.

Most everyone has heard the legend of Slender Man, but what most don’t know is that he is anything but a mere legend. No one can escape his supernatural presence. He can absorb, kill, or merely take you away. If you look at his face, there is no turning back. He lurks behind you in the dark shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to attack.

He only hunts his prey after sunset and in the dark of night. You might think if you find a light source or a shelter to hide in you would be safe, but nothing can scare him away from you. Nothing can stop Slender Man. He is always there waiting to get you when you least expect it.

He might not catch you, but just the thought of him can make you go insane with fear. The fear of Slender Man has caused even innocent children to commit heinous crimes. To tell if someone is under his control, there are signs which are amnesia, bouts of coughing, random nosebleeds, delusions, and paranoid behavior.

Do not be afraid of him. He can sense fear. The more fear and paranoia you have, the more likely he will be to come after you. Whatever you do do not be afraid of him.

The Blessing of Being Overwhelmed (Olivia Clement)

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In an attempt to bring comfort to someone in a difficult situation, you have most likely heard someone say, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” The more I have thought about this statement, the more I’ve realized that it is lacking.

I know from firsthand experience. God gave me more than I felt I could handle when he led me to go to New York City on a mission trip in June 2017. God knows that my response to mission trips has always been fear. I am afraid of planes, the turbulence on the planes, and even the multitude of germs in the planes! I am afraid of approaching a Tibetan Muslim I have never met before to boldly share the gospel of Christ. I am afraid of being uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, I am certain that God is telling me to go, so I am going. Not because I feel like I can easily handle it, but because he is teaching me. Naturally, in my own strength, I sometimes approach God’s plans with fear, hesitancy, or anxiety. Yet I am reminded of one of Paul’s letters in which he encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel and reminds him of the salvation and calling that God gave him. Paul states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 2:7). Like Timothy, many of us fall into a spirit of fear. In our own strength, we definitely cannot handle the challenges of life and the often uncomfortable callings God has for us. This is why I believe that God gives us more than we can handle, so that we will realize our need for the Holy Spirit to give us power, love, and self-control.

Consider ways in your own life that you are falling into a spirit of fear. When you feel like you cannot handle something, it is probably because you cannot. But you can with the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in our weakness. In reality, God does give us overwhelming situations, but only because he wants to remind us that he will never give us more than we can handle…with Him.

PSA: The Consequences of Anemia (Camilla Lemons)

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My breath left me every time I walked up the stairs. Lugging around my backpack was a greater pain than usual. I got plenty of sleep each night but remained exhausted during the day. I dreaded cross country practice. My primary means of relieving stress had become a stress in and of itself. Even though I had been running consistently for several months, my legs still felt like bricks every time I tried to move them. It was not until my first race that I finally admitted something was definitely wrong. My time was over four minutes slower than my previous races, and I had felt miserable every step of the way.

I went to the doctor soon after, hoping and praying that this problem had a simple solution. I discovered that I was low on iron, or in medical terms, anemic. I began taking iron supplements twice a day as prescribed by my doctor to combat this deficiency. After a few short weeks, I felt a tremendous increase in energy with an added bonus of faster times in races.

Anemia often goes undetected even though one in four teenage girls have an iron deficiency. Shortly after I learned of this deficiency, two more girls on the cross country team discovered that they were anemic as well. If I, along with the other two girls, had known earlier about our iron deficiencies, then we could have avoided a painful and discouraging season. Awareness about anemia can help other teenage girls become and feel much healthier. If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, consider consulting your family physician about possible anemia.

Running Crazy (Pierce Moffett)

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Whenever I tell people that I run cross country, they tend to look at me in a funny way. It’s as if they want to tell me I’m crazy, but they don’t want to appear rude. So to avoid being mean, people always ask me “why?” They don’t seem to believe that it’s possible to run for fun. People cannot comprehend why runners run. To most, running is a punishment used in other sports, meant to inflict pain. But even during a tough, painful practice, I can still find enjoyment in it.

One of the reasons I run is to prepare for racing. Most people (especially myself) have a competitive spirit inside of them. Racing gives me the chance to let that spirit loose. And the feeling of satisfaction after finishing a race is unlike anything else.

However, the biggest reason I run is my team. Nothing builds a stronger bond than running. When you go through a moment of intense pain with someone else, you leave that moment better friends. For me, running has brought some of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life, but if I ever think back on those moments, I can distinctly remember who I experienced them with. No other sport creates the same type of relationship that this creates. Nothing can beat the bond that is made when two people experience excruciating pain. The bonds that I have made through running have honestly turned into some of my strongest friendships. Those friendships are the reason that I run.

But even after I try to explain this reason to people, they still can’t comprehend why I run. So I’ve given up explaining it to people. When they ask “why,” I just answer “because I’m crazy.”

And maybe that’s the most truthful answer of all.

The Most Wonderful Three Months of the Year (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Christmas in the early to mid-1900s looked a lot different than it does now in the twenty-first century. Most households did not put up a tree or decorate the house until a few days or even the day before Christmas. The holiday season has since been extended because of the commercialization of Christmas. Decorations appear on store shelves as early as October, and Christmas music begins playing on the radio around the same time.

For some, this is a major annoyance. These people tend to feel strongly that Christmas music and decorations should not be heard or seen until after Thanksgiving or even later. They think that premature celebration of Christmas causes people to overlook Thanksgiving.

Others, including myself, enjoy the music and all aspects of the season so much that we have no problem starting the festivities a bit early. In fact, once November rolls around, I begin to compile a playlist on Spotify with my favorite artists’ Christmas albums.

While some might think it strange to do such things, I believe that starting the Christmas season a bit earlier allows people to feel a certain joy that can be hard to find as cooler weather and gloomy days become more frequent–unless of course you live in Alabama, in which case the joy would allow you to cope with abnormally warm weather and lack of rain.

I still am able to enjoy the month of November and Thanksgiving with my family even with Christmas decorations up around the house. Though many still may be against the idea, I will always love listening to Christmas music and beginning to decorate in early November.

More than a Job (Will Green)

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My family always encouraged my brothers and I to get jobs as soon as we could and to learn early on how to work for a boss. Both of my older brothers worked for Chick-fil-A as their first jobs, so naturally I followed suit. I have been working for Chick-Fil-A for two years now and have learned that our product is so much more than a chicken sandwich.

When I first got the job, I was working a few days a week as the Chick-fil-A cow and was absolutely loving it. Imagine getting to pretend it is halloween every time you work. Literally, getting to walk around Chick-fil-A in a cow suit making kids, families, and friend groups laugh was a dream. Not too long after, I began to work behind the counter and learned that it was not all just dancing out on the side of highway 280. Learning to work a register, stock counters, and breakdown lemonade machines is tough work. Yet there is joy in getting to watch the faces of the hundreds of people I serve light up when they receive the praised Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. I absolutely love it.

My dad just recently took a job as the Senior Director of Winshape Homes, a division of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. As I begin to learn and see more and more of what Chick-fil-A is all about, I have grown exponentially in my appreciation and love for my job.

I would strongly encourage it and would love to talk to anyone who is thinking about starting a high school job to consider Chick-fil-A. Who would not want to work for a company whose stated corporate purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick‐fil‐A.”

Battle Royal: A Book Review (Katie Krulak)

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Fourty-two teenagers, lethal weapons, minimal supplies, one survivor. Hunger Games? No, Battle Royale. Before The Hunger Games skyrocketed to its place at the top of the best seller list, Battle Royale was released in 1999 in Japan. Portraying a dystopian Japan under a totalitarian government, author Koushun Takami sets a grim stage for his characters to walk upon.

What makes Battle Royale distinct from The Hunger Games?

Why should we bother reading both when a familiar one with easily pronounceable Western names would suffice?

To start, Battle Royale is a book that is geared towards a far more mature audience. While the plot of the book is generally the same, The Hunger Games’ depiction of the Capitol in all its whimsical corruption and the way friendships are so easily formed among the tributes, brings a certain levity to the story. Not so with its Japanese counterpart. In Battle Royale this is not a game to bring amusement so much as a calculated study. Forcing third year junior high students (eighth graders) to fight to the death is bad enough; bringing in students from the same class adds a new level of drama and tension. Minor characters receive nearly as much time in the spotlight as the central protagonists, allowing readers to grasp the complexity of the students’ relationships, which range from open animosity to romance. And speaking of romance, it played a major role in The Hunger Games, but Battle Royale focuses more on survival in the harshest of situations.

Koushun Takami paints vibrant characters against a gritty backdrop. The cover shuts on the conclusion of a bloody swath of devastation recounted in such a way that the most grotesque death is depicted in a vivid way that can only be described as beautiful. The story comes to life, characters breathe on the drawing readers into their world, a world ruled by fear, instinct, and desperate hope.

The Praise of Children (Jack Wilson)

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Nothing is more satisfying than the praise of children. Maybe it is their sincerity, or maybe it is their ability to exaggerate. Regardless, there is something that separates a child’s compliment from a friend’s compliment. On a personal level, I have learned that I hold a lot of weight with younger children. Every Thursday I help coach roughly forty eight-year-olds and teach them the basics of soccer. Even though I’m not an adult, they think I hung the moon. I’ve developed secret handshakes with each of these kids, all because I can show them a move or teach them where to go. In the end, this raw and unfiltered praise from young children truly means the most. Every time I take the field on Thursday, I always remember the gravity I hold because of my actions.

Saying Goodbye (Pierce Moffett)

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The hands of the children hung on to the bars of the iron gate. They had been lining up for hours, waiting for us to finish working. Once the gate opened, everyone of them sprinted through the small opening, as if they were racing to make it to their buddy first. This was my experience the last day of my mission trip to Belize this past summer.

Every night of the past week we had hosted a VBS for these kids, building a relationship with each one. Every night we saw their smiling faces, each kid just as happy to see us as we were to see them. But after playing games and crafts with them for five days, sadly, the fun had to end. Each leader tried their hardest to make the last day the most memorable.

When our adult leaders told us it was time to go, everybody’s heart sank. We had poured our hearts into these children for days, and now we knew we might never see them again. Each leader gave their kids a last hug and took one last picture to remember them by. One of the kids I had formed a relationship with gave me a craft he had made so that I could remember him. We gave each other one last hug, and he walked off to the gate.