Losers Win


Kristen paced back and forth across the room. In the past fifteen minutes she had tried on five different tops and three pairs of shorts. Still, she couldn’t decide what to wear. Today everything had to be just right. She wanted to make sure that nothing, even her clothes, would cause her to lose one of the races.

“Kristen!” her mom shouted. “If you don’t hurry, we’re going to miss the ward party.”

“I’ll be right down,” Kristen called. Quickly she put on her most comfortable outfit, then reached into the closet and grabbed her running shoes.

“Mom,” said Kristen as she entered the kitchen, “what do athletes usually eat just before a big race?”

“Honey, to tell you the truth, I don’t really know. Why do you ask?”

“You know that Brother Reda always has the races right after everyone eats.”

“That’s true.” Kristen’s mom laughed. “But I don’t think that you need to worry about it. You always do well in races. Try to calm down, and let’s just go and have a good time.” “Calm down!” declared Kristen. “How can I? Anthony Nelson will be there bragging about how great he is. He thinks that he’s better than everyone.”

“Well, if we don’t hurry, he won’t have any competition at all.”

When Kristen arrived at the picnic, Anthony was the first to greet her. “You should see the prizes Brother Reda has in the trunk of his car,” he said. “I saw them when he was getting out some folding chairs.”

“And I suppose you think that you’ll be going home with one of those prizes,” teased Kristen.

“One!” Anthony exclaimed. “I just hope that someone will help me carry all the prizes that I win to the car.”

After Kristen had finished drinking her lemonade, she heard Brother Reda announce, “We’re going to start the races! The first one will be a straight run from this starting line to that streamer stretched between those two trees over there. This race is for all ten-to-twelve-year-olds.”

“That’s us,” called Anthony. “Come on, Kristen. I wouldn’t want you to miss this. You’re the one I want to beat.”

Kristen was too nervous to say anything. She glanced around to see who else was running and noticed Matt Powers sitting against a tree. He looked sad as he watched the other kids line up for the race. Kristen remembered how bad she had felt last summer when Matt was in a car accident and lost his left leg. It had taken him a long time to learn how to walk with his artificial leg.

“Everyone get lined up,” ordered Brother Reda. “On your mark, get set, GO!”

Kristen started slowly, and Anthony pulled out in front of her. But she quickly picked up speed as she concentrated on the finish line. The next thing she knew, she was breaking through the streamer. She had won!

“You’re faster than I thought,” Anthony said as he tried to catch his breath. “Congratulations, but watch out! I’m going to beat you in the next race.”

“You weren’t so bad yourself,” Kristen said with a smile, a little surprised at how nice he was being. I wonder if I could handle losing that well.

A few races for the younger children were run next. However, Kristen was too busy looking for a partner for the three-legged race to watch them.

Suddenly Anthony ran up to her. “I have my partner for the three-legged race,” he gloated. “I bet no one will beat Joshua Ellis and me!” Kristen searched the crowd around her, looking for a partner. Her eyes stopped on Matt Powers, who was still sitting on the sidelines.

I must be crazy to even consider him, Kristen thought as she approached Matt. “Hey, Matt, do you want to be in the three-legged race? I need a partner.”

“Me?” asked Matt. He looked puzzled. “Is that a joke?”

“Of course not. I know that we can do it if you’re willing to give it a try,” said Kristen.

“I’m willing if you’re willing.” Matt carefully got up and hurried over to her. He had been rather quiet lately, but now he seemed as lively as he had been before the accident. Kristen tied their inside legs together, and they hobbled up to the starting line.

When everyone was ready, Brother Reda yelled, “Go!”

Kristen and Matt held on tightly to each other as they lumbered down the field. She was surprised at how well Matt could run. At the halfway point, Anthony and Joshua were side-by-side with Kristen and Matt. Then Matt lost his balance, and the two toppled over. “Hurry and get up. We might still be able to make it!” urged Matt as he pulled Kristen to her feet.

A few moments later they fell again. By this time, more teams were catching up and beginning to pass them; Kristen tugged at Matt. “Come on! We may not be first, but let’s not be last!”

As they neared the finish, Kristen could hear Anthony cheering them on. He and Joshua had already finished—first, of course. Kristen and Matt fell forward just as they crossed the finish line. They glanced at each other. Dirt covered both their faces. They started laughing, and soon everyone was laughing with them.

Kristen smiled at Anthony. “It’s my turn to congratulate you,” she said. Then she turned to Matt and winked. Losing’s not that bad, she thought. In fact, it can be a lot of fun.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Colleen Hinckley