A Team of Young Runners Races to the Finish
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A lyrical, touching and true tale of a running coach mentoring her high school athletes to the finishing line of their potential. Pont does not have previous books in her track record, but this cross-country running coach, dean of students, and English teacher at Moravian Academy (near Bethlehem, Penn.) is the daughter of a coach and earned an M.F.A. from Penn State. Pont’s prose and intimacy with the long-distance runner’s agonies and ecstasies may be seen in passages like the following: “Pain spelunks through the body, mining deep. It begins in the cavern of the head with a hammered ringing, shimmies down the larynx, scuffs the stomach, swings from hamstrings, digs its spiked heels into ankles, then catapults back up to the melting knees, the roasting heart.” We get not only pre-race stretches, but finely extended metaphors from this coach. Pont only rarely stumbles into overwriting, describing the bodies of students as if they were lovers or works of art. The adolescent runners are works in progress, though, and we follow the team members” growing achievements by the coach’s stopwatch. Sports offer us an uncomplicated world of rules, wins and losses, injuries and second winds, and we share Pont’s assessments of personal goals and course records down to the minutes and seconds. Some boys and girls remain disappointments, but by the time autumn and the league finals end, Dave and Samantha emerge as champions. The academy cross-country team, in fact, has its best season ever but is still an afterthought, as the administration is concerned with the school’s major sports. By the end, the coach and her readers know that the Zen, “the pleasure of doing something as difficult as running,” is not measured in wins and losses. An eloquent book about attaining and teaching excellence, whose metaphor happens to be a high school running team. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100347-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999


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