Saturday, June 30, 2007

Another Cool Memory

I was reading my hometown newspaper today and was reminded of a bit of history that I experienced first hand. Unless you are from Boulder, or are really into running - you may have never heard of Melody Fairchild. I went to junior high and high school with Melody and she absolutely dominated the sport for a three year span. When we were in high school, Melody won something like 12 state championships and two national championships. She still holds state records and a few national records. If you google her name and read some articles you will quickly find words like, "Melody Fairchild is arguably the greatest high school runner of all time." You could not possibly overestimate how good this girl was.
Melody winning a national championship in 1990

Boulder has a race every Memorial Day called the Bolder Boulder. It's a 10 k that attracts some of the greatest runners in the world. The race ends with a lap around the football field at CU and thousands of fans in the stadium. While we were in high school, Melody won the citizens race every single year and our senior year, her time would have placed her second overall in the world class division. The girl was amazing!

I remember in junior high, our PE teacher issued a challenge to us. He said that if anyone could beat Melody in the "Jolly Jog" then no one would have to run the rest of the year. The "Jolly Jog" was a trip around two football fields, three soccer fields, four baseball fields, and 24 tennis courts. We had to do it every Monday and every one hated it. Everyone except for Melody. This was the ninth grade, where the boys are supposed to be faster than the girls. We had one kid, Eddie Panton, who ran like a 4.5 in the ninth grade. We would get Eddie ready all day long to beat Melody. The night before we cooked him spaghetti. In the morning we would feed him pancakes. there was gatorade in between classes. And packets of honey for the run. We were determined to beat Melody. There were about 10 guys, myself included, who would sprint off at the beginning of the run and try to block Melody in. Eddie would always get off to a big lead raising our hopes up, but inevitably Melody would get out of our maneuvering and break free. I'll never forget seeing her pass us. She was so tiny and her long pony tail would swing back and forth like windshield wipers. She was absolutely rock solid steady when she ran. You couldn't break her. And every single time, without fail, she would end up passing Eddie. She would actually keep on running at the end of the "Jolly Jog" all the way into the girl's locker room. She was amazing.

We all knew we were a part of greatness then. Nobody could stop Melody Fairchild. And sure enough, when we got to high school she kept on dominating. Championships rolled in left and right. We used to have all school assemblies anytime our school won a state championship. The way it would work is that all of the current teams would get paraded in before the whole school and they would talk about how they we hoping for a great season, yada, yada, yada. Then they would introduce the state champions at the end and everyone would go nuts. Our girls basketball team and softball team won the state championship every year we were in high school. So it always seemed like it was one of those teams and Melody getting cheered on. We had one about three times a year for Melody alone! I have to admit that the guys on the baseball team were getting pretty aggravated about it. We vowed to get our own assembly one day!

The Boulder Daily Camera recently did a huge story on the best athletes in the history of Boulder County. This would include college and pro athletes as well as local high school legends. You would think with top notch college athletes such as this one:that a high school kid wouldn't stand a chance. But Melody won the award in a landslide as the top female athlete in the history of Boulder!

Melody's story took a wrong turn after high school. Her Mom died the summer after we graduated and then she suffered what many thought would be a career ending hip injury her freshman year at Oregon. The girl who was destined to win Olympic Gold, was not even able to run. I can't imagine the inner turmoil she must have battled. She was a bonified celebrity in Boulder. Now she was unable to do what she was celebrated for and she didn't even have her Mom to turn to.

After two years off of running, Melody went back to the University of Oregon to run again. One thing about Melody was she had this quite amazing combination of a really sweet spirit mixed with a fiery competitive edge. I guess that competitive edge kicked in because Melody ended up winning a national championship her senior year and beating the records she had set in high school.

The story I read today that brought about all of these memories said that Melody is opening her own running camp in Colorado for young girls. She is going to teach them how to run, but she also wants to teach them life skills and talk about how to have a healthy body image. Way to go Melody!


Anonymous said...

Sports ...... sports........

Marc Mac said...

Many of you have emailed and asked...

The girl with the spear is my sister-in-law - Pam. Don't mess with her!

Jen said...

I graduated the same year as Fairchild. I also ran cross-country and track at a nearby high school. I still hold one track record at my old school. I idolized little but mighty Melody. I can recall going neck and neck with her toward the finish line of the two mile. Melody crossed the line just ahead of me, but then I still has two laps to go!