It was the best race I had seen him run in a long time, and I couldn't wait to meet him at the finish line.
My 11-year-old son, Ace, had just pulled off a tactical and strong win at the fifth-grade district 800-meter race.
Just as I was about to walk down to the finish line, I saw a familiar face toward the back of the pack, rounding the final turn. It was Ace's childhood friend and a former preschool student of mine. His slow and steady pace and relentless forward motion inspired me.
Both had very different races, and I was equally proud of each of them.
And then there were their stories leading up to the race.
After several months of an offseason that included a move to a new school, Ace was looking forward to his day to shine. He had worked hard nearly every day to improve his strength, speed and stamina, and this was most certainly that day.
He started out the meet with a solid win in his heat of the 100-meter dash that solidified his place in the finals later in the meet.
Fueled with confidence from that first win, Ace toed the line of the 800-meters. He tucked in behind the leaders and stayed there as they pulled him along through the first lap and halfway through the second. And with 150 meters to go, he opened up his stride, got on his toes, pumped his arms, and let it go all the way to the tape.
Racing fast is one thing that brings him to life, and as his mom, I was so grateful to be there to witness this moment in his life.
When I saw my son's friend come around the turn, I was surprised.
I knew we had moved to the same town, but I didn't expect to see him there. Sure, it was the track meet that all fifth-graders were required to participate in, but I was still surprised.
This boy whom I have known since he was a toddler did not love running, as I recall, but loved everything about penguins and weather — especially tornadoes. I loved when he would talk about Tornado Alley, and how he wanted to live there someday. I could listen to him for hours.
Oh, and his momma. He loved his momma. She packed his backpack with his favorite toy — a purple stuffed doll that would bring him comfort when she was gone. I remember it well, and I remember the sweet relationship they had as mother and son — a relationship I tried hard to emulate.
As I watched him move slowly toward the finish, his focus unwavering, my surprise turned to sadness because I wished his mom was here to see this, as it was a year ago when his sweet mom passed away unexpectedly.
I wondered how he was doing it. How was he moving forward like that with such determination and strength?
It was then that I heard cheers from the stands calling his name. Kids and adults alike were cheering him in, and I couldn't help but join in. And as I did, I knew that we weren't the only ones cheering.
Just as I was there for my son, so was his momma for him.
These two boys who ran in the same race that day may have had very different stories and outcomes. But they had one very important thing in common: mothers who love and want the very best for them in everything they do.