Ryan’s Victory


It wasn’t his strongest event—just his greatest.

A hush fell over the gym as the crowd watched my son Ryan’s third try on the high jump. He placed a wet towel on the ground, stepped on it, and slid his tennis shoes until he felt them grip with a squeak. With a little hop start, Ryan took off to the high-jump bar. As he lifted off the floor I raised to my toes and clenched every muscle in my body as though it would help him up and over the bar. He floated up, up, up, and yes! He cleared the bar. He’d jumped higher than all the other competitors.

“That boy of yours can really jump,” people would say as they patted me on the back. Thirteen-year-old Ryan was the youngest in his grade and smaller than many boys he was competing with in this small, rural, bischool competition. The school we were competing against outnumbered our school by twice the students. Ryan’s victory was all the more important because the other school always seemed to beat us in the meets.

Earlier in the day Ryan had won first place in the 100-yard dash, and second in the long jump. I have to admit, my heart was bursting with pride at the success Ryan was having at this meet. Ryan’s fourth and final event would be the shot put. It would be his toughest event yet as he battled against boys who easily outweighed him by 20 or 30 pounds. This was Ryan’s first year in the senior boys’ division, which consisted of boys in eighth, ninth, and tenth grades. Eagerly I hurried over to the far end of the field to watch. His first throw was a good one. From my vantage point he looked like he was in about second place at the end of the first round. The judges hammered into the ground a marker that had the number eight on it. As the second round started, two other throws went well past number eight. Ryan’s second throw was slightly short of the first, so the marker stayed where it was. The third and final attempts began. As Ryan got up, he grabbed his arms behind his back to stretch them out. He reached up to wipe off the trickle of sweat at his brow with the back of his hand. Balancing the shot in hand, he placed his foot carefully at the inside edge of the shot put circle. Three times his knees flexed; then he took two slide steps forward. The heavy metal weight flew so far I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The judges ran out to measure. I couldn’t tell if it beat the farthest marker or not, but before I found out, I saw Ryan out by the judges.

“I’m sorry,” I heard him say. “My foot went over the line.”

“Thanks, Ryan. I didn’t catch that,” said one of the judges. “We appreciate your honesty.”

A voice behind me proudly said, “That’s my deacons quorum president.”

I thought to myself, That’s my son.

Suddenly, Ryan’s other successes that day didn’t seem as important. Every spring since that meet, as we watch the events, someone always brings up the time when my son beat the bigger boys in the high jump. However, my recollection turns to what really made Ryan a winner that day—his commitment to telling the truth.

[illustration] Illustrated by Greg Newbold