#Repost Series: Short Story-Inter-House Sports Day.

I stood in lane eight, barefoot, wearing an ill-fitting sports outfit which had been
hastily provided for me by my House Mistress.

‘On your marks!’ The Games Master bellowed, almost deafening me as he was
standing not too far from me. He was holding a microphone; why did the man
have to shout?

I heard the hush of anticipation from the crowd as I crouched in starting position.
It was the finals of the 100metres Senior Girls’ race. I knew that I would not be
the centre of attention for the race. The girls in lanes four and five were favourites
to win. I, a last-minute addition to the lineup, was only there to make up the


I rose slightly in my place, looking down and wishing that the girl who should
have been in my place had not suddenly fallen ill that morning. I had not
practiced my sprints since the in-house qualification stage two weeks before. I
was an average sprinter at the best of times, and I was not too keen on my
chances in this race.

I wondered if I had lost my chance to finally speak to my crush, Steve.


As I got dressed that Saturday morning, my only goal for the day was to find a
way to talk to Steve, my class mate and the School’s Labour prefect. As my room
mates chattered excitedly about which House would win the trophy for the best
performance, I daydreamed about finally having a proper conversation with
Steve. He was very handsome, charming and laughed a lot. Even though we had
been classmates from JSS1 to SS3, he and I had spoken only a few times, but I
treasured the words like they were precious gemstones.

‘Emerald House will win’. ‘No, Topaz House will win!!!’ The good-natured
arguments continued around me. I was torn; I was in Topaz House which had
very good runners, but Emerald House had the best looking guys who looked
good in sportswear.

Steve was also in Emerald House.

‘Ufuoma, are you ready?’ My bunkmate Sylvia asked, looking at me expectantly.
She had high cheekbones and high-set eyebrows, so she always looked

I checked my watch; it was about 9:00 am. Even though the Inter-House Sports
Day officially started at 11:00 am, we students were expected to be there before
that time.

I nodded. ‘Yes, I’m ready. Let’s go’. I secured the padlock on my locker, slipped
on my grey backpack and fell into step with her. Sylvia and I were often mistaken
for sisters because of our similar medium-brown complexions, medium heights
and full hair. However, Sylvia was bubbly and smiled easily, while I was
introverted and somewhat shy.

All the girls in our dormitory joined other students in the school for the 30-minute
walk to the sports field. Most of us were dressed in our school uniforms-white
tops over blue bottoms, while others were dressed in sportswear. The
Geography of my school always baffled me. Each location was so far from
everywhere else. My cousins who attended other Federal Government Colleges
around Nigeria also had this same complaint, so I always wondered if this was a
deliberate policy on the government’s part. Or maybe it was simply just poor

The sports field was located in the centre of the school, quite close to the
classrooms and the dining hall. The Boys’ dormitories were located at the other
end of the school, as if to keep boys and girls as far from each other as possible
after the school day ended. I would have told the school administration that they
needn’t have bothered with this strategy; all the ‘hanky-panky’ between boys and
girls occurred in the afternoons and evenings during study time in the

My parents had already told me that they could not attend the Inter-House Sports
Day as they would be traveling out of Lagos for a wedding. This did not bother
me; the money and provisions which they had sent to me through a family friend
the day before made up for their absence.

The smell of burnt grass and paint filled the air as we approached the field. The
tracks had been freshly painted with white paint to demarcate each lane. I kept
my eyes peeled for Steve, but he was nowhere in sight.

The sports pavilion which had been recently refurbished courtesy of contributions
from the P.T.A. was on the right side of the field, and the four Houses in the
school-Topaz, Emerald, Sapphire, and Amethyst-were designated canopies on
the opposite side of the field. Students, Teachers, and visitors milled around, and
Sylvia and I zig-zagged our way to the Topaz House canopy.

There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was out in full force. Just as we set
foot underneath the canopy, thankful for the shade which it provided, I felt a
heavy hand on my right shoulder. ‘Ufuoma, please we need you to run today’.
I groaned inwardly, recognizing the voice of Mrs. Peters, my House Mistress.
I turned around and met her gaze, hoping that my despair didn’t show on my

‘Ma, what happened to Halima?’

‘I’ve been told that she’s in the sickbay with malaria; she definitely cannot run

I looked at Mrs. Peters. She was once an athlete and was tall with a wiry
physique; she always looked like she was about to take off in a sprint. However,
despite looking very smart in her blue joggers and matching zip-up jumper, she
was obviously very frustrated. Her fair complexion seemed to be getting redder
by the second.

Resigned to my fate, I shrugged off my backpack, gave it to an apologeticlooking Sylvia and asked, ‘what will I wear to run?’
Mrs. Peters perked up immediately and barked at one of the junior girls hanging
around us to bring a sports outfit for me.

I ended up with black shorts which were slightly too tight and a white t-shirt with
‘TOPAZ’ emblazoned at the back that was slightly too big.

Things progressed quickly after that, and before I knew it, the boring speeches
and the march-past were over, and I heard the Games Master announce: ‘All the
runners for the 100metres Senior Girls race should take their positions!’

‘Don’t worry, Ufuoma. I know you will run well’, said Sylvia. She was a very
optimistic person, whereas I carried my cynicism like a badge of honour.

I dragged my feet to the track, with my ears full of good wishes from Topaz
House members. There were so many faces in my field of vision but they all
blurred into one vague blob. It didn’t occur to me to be nervous as I walked up to
the beginning of the track to join the other girls, who were already stretching and
extending limber limbs.

I just wanted the race to be over.

I came third.

I was as surprised as everyone else. I had focused only on not coming last, and I
do not know where the surge of energy came from. I had seen the two front
runners break away from the rest of the field from the corner of my left eye, and I
had done my best to keep up with their pace.

There were loud cheers as we crossed the finish line and I fell heavily to the
ground as I tried to catch my breath.

I was soon surrounded by screaming students from Topaz House, and my House
Mistress smiled so hard that her eyes seemed to disappear into her face.

As I stood on the podium with the girls who came first and second, it suddenly
occurred to me to feel proud of myself. While posing for a photograph with them,
I suddenly noticed Steve walking arm in arm across the field with Dooshima, a
girl who was also in SS3 but in one of the science classes. They were talking and

I looked down at my third place trophy and sighed. I guess I was meant to get
some sort of prize that day; it just wasn’t going to be Steve.

Written by

Ivie M. Eke 2023 (previously published).


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