MAY 18th 1995
It was hot as shit, and the sun baked our fragile Canadian DNA, like fresh caught lake trout over a fire. Trail BC was always hotter than Golden, and for some reason, the athletes were bigger, much bigger as if powered by the Sun.
We arrived for the West Kootenay Track and Field Championships and the final qualifier for the High school Provincial Championships just around the corner. I was the strong favorite in all three throwing events, and I knew that winning would mean beating athletes prepared by Willi Franz Krause. Mr. Krause at the time was an 87-year-old former German Olympic coach, who immigrated to Canada following the Second Great War. Willi had a strong presence, and although he was well past his physical prime, there was intensity behind his blue eyes.
All the developmental athletes in the area committed to the sport of Athletics knew and feared Mr. Krause’s tough persona. Since I had never met the man, I just feared him, through reputation yet had no idea why. Perhaps it was the stories of how hard his team prepared for competition, the rigid German structure that his female hurdlers possessed as they dominated the infield between flights. Or perhaps, it was the athletic size of his throwers as they moved more like lions than high school seniors. Either way, walking into the lion’s den was both exciting and overwhelming for me at that point in my career. It was all I could do, to stay focused on the task at hand. Warm ups into prelims which lead to finals, that’s what I was there to do, and that was all I needed to do. I was the favorite; it was my meet to lose, and even the Steel Curtain was not going to stop me.
However, I could not take my attention away from Willi and his athletes and the way they worked and moved in unison. Everything was so precise and automatic, the oldest athletes Sheppard the youngest into line. The process of coach and athlete was never ending and circular. If somethings were out of order, Willie would speak to his Alphas, and the Alphas would snarl at the pack, and I envied it all.
The meet went as planned with victories in all three of my events, but I was a long way from the top of the game and regardless of the feelings of achievement that I had. I knew there was another level of dedication to sport I had yet to experience, a level that was rich with discipline, unity, commitment, and drive.
I stood against the fence watching the backstretch of the track, feeling the pride of my accomplishments, but secretly wonder what was next for me? Would this be the second to last track and field competition of my life? Was I ready to be finished with this world that I was just starting to see without the veil of geographical isolation?
As I stood quietly in deep contemplation my eyes open but nothing actually in focus, I immediately snapped to attention as the figure of an older Man made his way towards me. It was Mr. Krause in the flesh, and he spoke not a word as he moved within inches of me. Placing his left arm over my shoulder to bring me in closer a million thoughts began to race through my mind. “Why was he talking to me? Had I done something wrong? It is 35 degrees Celsius why is he wearing a full-length Adidas Track Warm-up? “
His words tore into my soul with a fiery explosion. Willi knew that I was being rewritten from the ground up, every plan that I had, and every idea that I assumed solidified, shattered. When I turned and looked towards him, his eyes blue, and piercing looked deeper into me than any depth that I knew to be possible. Mr. Krause didn’t speak another word that day. He left me standing alone knowing that the sheer weight of his words would keep me anchored to that spot like an encumbrance.
I stood quietly as my Brother and teammates made their way towards me; somewhat cautious as they feared that I just had my ass chewed for any plethora of reasons related to being an 18-year-old jock. After what seemed like an eternity the silence was finally broken, a voice cleared the air directly. “So… what did he say?”