SPORTS DAY March 2007 brought a lot of rain to our island (Lifuka) but the delays necessitated by the weather did not dampen the spirits of the student atheletes! There were many parents and younger siblings present, as well as vendors and officials, all coming to Ha'apai High School to experience the competition.

The exciting action held our attention even with the hot and humid conditions. Many students made their own hats from coconut fronds, and some painted their faces in the school colors. A shade canopy provided some protection from the occasional sprinkle, at least until a big gust of wind brought an end to the old rickety structure. Fortunately the rain was over.

The atheletes make their way to the starting line and limber up, shaking their legs and arms. They roll their heads around and loosen their neck, sizing up the competition for any sign of weakness. Some have bare feet, some have one sock or two, some with shoes and some without. The official shouts "On your marks, get set..." and with a slap of the wood, the runners leap out with the best that they have.

The runners make their way through the first turn, keeping to their own lane. It's early in the contest, but some have begun to show a bit more speed than their competitors. Will that early lead give way to another when their second wind comes, or will the advantage gained in the first 25 meters make the difference that wins the race? Who will prevail depends on the heart of the true champion.

Our man has taken the early lead and the crowd is going wild as they pass our appointed watching place from along the second turn. The biggest cheers are coming from not the students but from a couple of very excited moms! The cheering section shouts "Taha, taha, fitu" clap, clap, clap. The atheletes make their move along the backstretch and the true champion begins to emerge.

They're coming down the stretch and the leaders are stroking their strides, not to be undone at the finish line. But who has the muster to finish out the race, and who will fall inches short of a victory? The tale of the tape will make the decision at the finish line and for now each athelete will have to give it all they got or go home with the silver instead of the gold.

It's a photo finish! Who could know the race would come down to a slight extension of the knee at the very end? Whatever the outcome, though winning is a glorious experience, the chance to represent the school and do your best is what sports day is all about. No one can doubt the effort of these two competitiors, regardless of their size, their heart is gold.