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Track and field feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by KYSportsWriter, May 28, 2008.

  1. KYSportsWriter

    KYSportsWriter Well-Known Member

    This is about a year old now, but I still wanted to post it because I thought it was a pretty good, gut-wrenching story for me to write. I struggled with typing a lot of this, and for obvious reasons.

    And I know not to use the & for track and field.

    Marcellus Hobbs has had the type of year no one expected out of the North Hardin High School track & field athlete.

    Hobbs, a sophomore, was a relative unknown entering this season. But after overcoming the death of his father and a season-ending injury last year, Hobbs has transformed into one of the best sophomores in the seven-school area.

    "That's the interesting fact of what a difference a year can do," said North Hardin co-coach James Webb. "Last year he was just a guy who had potential. He was part of that big three that I call Shawn Coley, Greg Sheppard and Marcellus. I expected two of the three to come up and help us this year. He's led the way."

    Hobbs is a front runner for the Area Sophomore of the Year award and qualified for two events - the 400-meter dash and the 1,600 relay - at the KHSAA State Track & Field Championships, which will be held at Lexington Dunbar High School today and Saturday.

    "It feels good because I never thought I would be (one of the best sophomores), Hobbs said. "I never thought I was one of the better sophomores in the area. I didn't think time-wise that I was good enough to be considered for it."

    Hobbs is seeded fourth in the 400 dash (50.56 seconds) and seventh along with junior Scott Swartz, senior Jason Green and Sheppard in the 1,600 relay (3 minutes, 27.56 seconds).


    Hobbs suffered a hamstring pull at the Central Hardin Invitational last year and was sidelined the rest of the season.

    Hobbs was running an anchor in the 800 relay when he felt his leg start give way.

    "I was running and I was catching up, but my leg just went out on me," Hobbs said. "I still finished the race, but my leg just got weaker and weaker. I had to let up."

    Hobbs said he was worried about how he would respond after the injury, but Webb said the youngster showed no ill effects in the first meet of the season.

    "The first race he was just so intense and just so strong," Webb said. "I was like 'Wow. Is this Marcellus?' I think he's enjoying the notoriety he's starting to get."

    Hobbs competed mainly on the blue squad, North Hardin's second team, before moving up to the black team this year.

    "I think I've progressed well this year," Hobbs said. "I was nervous because I didn't think I'd make the black team. I didn't even know I'd make it this far. I can't even believe how much I've progressed this year."

    Hobbs didn't think he'd have the chance to move up after what he said was a disappointing outing at the preseason Mason-Dixon Indoor Meet in February.

    Hobbs, running the last leg of the 1,600 relay, finished in 58 seconds but felt he let his team down.

    "I'd only ran one event that day and I was the last leg," Hobbs said. "After that, it just took a lot out of me. I thought I would never do that again. My time's kept going up since and I haven't looked back."


    The only time Hobbs does look back is when he thinks about his dad, affectionately known as Floyd.

    Floyd was diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer four years ago when Marcellus was a sixth-grader. His fight with the disease ended on New Year's Day of this year.

    "He was my best friend. He taught me everything I know," Marcellus said. "He was my inspiration and he's why I run now. He's just a big part of my life."

    Marcellus was in another room trying on a suit for Floyd's funeral just before he passed away. Marcellus' grandparents and sister, Candace, were in the living room when Marcellus' mom, Patricia, came in and said Floyd was gone.

    "He had gotten so weak over the years," Marcellus said. "My mom came in, I wasn't in the room at the time, but I heard my sister lay on the floor and start crying."

    Not even knowing his dad's death was imminent could prepare Marcellus for it.

    "My head just dropped," Marcellus said. "I kind of knew that it was going to happen, but I wasn't ready for it. It just took me by surprise."

    But Marcellus takes solace in the fact that Floyd isn't suffering anymore.

    "I think about that all the time. I'm sad, yet I'm happy," Marcellus said. "There's no more suffering. He's in a better place and it makes me feel better that I know I don't have to hear him aching, hurting, yelling and in pain anymore."

    Not everyone knew Floyd passed away. Webb and the rest of the team didn't find out until just before students returned to school in January.

    "He's a very private person and I had to approach him about it," Webb said. "I didn't know how to ask him about it. I had heard rumors that his father had passed away, but he just kept it to himself."

    "It probably made me stronger because most people didn't know he was sick," Marcellus said. "He never showed it. He was real strong. He never showed that he was ill or anything. He'd always look like he was healthy."

    Even through death, Marcellus said his family has always remained strong.

    "I think it's probably made us stronger," Marcellus said. "We have our tough times, but we're always there for each other. It's been hard, but it's been a benefit in a way."


    Marcellus has dedicated this season to the memory of Floyd. Every time he crosses the finish line, Marcellus points towards heaven to honor Floyd.

    "Every time I run, it's always for him. I'm always trying to do my best for him," Marcellus said. That's what he taught me, do my best or don't do anything at all.

    "He always told me to never quit," Marcellus added. "If you start something you have to finish it. If you have a goal, you need to finish it."

    Webb said it's been a joy to watch Marcellus grow this year.

    "He's matured as a person," Webb said. "To go through the season and deal with what he has, he could have packed it in and felt sorry for himself. Whatever people use for motivation is interesting. He used his father's death as a way to get motivated and get focused and do his father proud."

    And regardless of what happens this weekend, Marcellus has one simple goal.

    "I love him and I miss him," Marcellus said. "I hope he's proud of me."
  2. Smash Williams

    Smash Williams Well-Known Member

    I love the content you have in the story, the quotes and information.

    Personally, I would have flipped the structure. I find the stuff about his dad much more compelling and would have featured it more prominently in the lede and the top sections. Start with that (and work the upcoming meet information there), go through the hamstring injury about 2/3 of the way through then come back to his dad at the end.

    Maybe it's the medical geek in me, but I would have loved a little more specifics about the skin cancer as well. How did it develop from skin cancer into something that killed him? Did Marcellus have a good last few years with his father, or was his father weak and very sick for most of it?

    Finally, the more I think about this, the more it feels like two stories put together - a feature on his dad's death and a sidebar on his hamstring. Even your tone changes when you head into the part about the father. It's all good information and well reported, but I think it might have been stronger if you split it into two separate pieces so it didn't feel like the two very separate storylines are pushed together.
  3. chilidog75

    chilidog75 Member

    I agree with Smash.

    The father dying has to be played MUCH MUCH higher. It can't come after a hamstring injury and being happy that he's a top sophomore. It has to be the lede.

    It should have started with the dad and ended with the dad. Maybe the middle could have touched on his injury and how he's battled back, but the majority of the story should center around his relationship with his dad.

    Also, you should play around with your flow a little bit.

    Especially at the end of the story, it basically read like this:


    Maybe try to steer away from that a little bit, because it can get repetitive.
  4. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    You started a lot of sentences with Hobbs this and Hobbs that.

    I know it is very easy to get caught in that trap I also do it.
  5. Could have been better edited, but editing starts with the writer.
    Too many quotes for sure, but overall a good read I thought.
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