chapter four

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Practice was brutal tonight. 

We're two months away from the start of March Madness and Coach isn't fucking around. With three straight championship wins under his belt, this win is just as important to him as it is us, which is why nearly two and a half hours into practice, he has us lined up on the court about to run keep up's—a sprinting drill where the entire team has to try to keep up with the person designated by Coach. If they look like they're slowing down on purpose to let the rest catch up they get chewed out by Coach and sent for a mile run around the track, if the team doesn't keep up we redo the drill until we get it right. The goal is for everyone to reach the same speed. 

It's fucking grueling but it's Coach's favorite drill to run for conditioning.

We've already run it six times, bouncing around between different lead sprinters. Now, as he motions for us to step back onto the starting line, all I can hear down the row of men beside me are desperate breaths trying to rake in ask much air as possible.

"Alright, if you can keep up on your first try I'll end practice right now. If you don't we're going to go down the line until every one of you has led the sprint," he glances at his wristwatch, "It's 7:30 now, I'll need to call Mary and tell her to wrap up my dinner for me, but I can stay here all night if I need to ladies,"

My chest is heaving and I cross my arms above my head in a desperate attempt to get more air into my lungs.

"Emery sets the pace," he yells, sticking his whistle between his teeth.

I glance down the line at my teammates whose faces are drenched in sweat and red from exertion, some of them are bent over, their hands braced on their thighs for support while others are mirroring my position with their arms above their head, trying to regulate their breathing.

Scanning their faces, I can tell that they're fading quickly. We all are. And to make matters worse, Nathan Emery is now getting death glares because he's our fastest sprinter and this round is high stakes.

"We're fucked, T," Micah says under his breath.

I push the drenched hair pasted to my forehead away from my face and groan as the very real possibility of us being stuck here for another hour starts to set in.

"Listen up," I yell, shaking out my arms to try to get some energy back, one last burst of adrenaline is all I need to catch up to Nate's pace. The collective eyes of the fourteen men down the line all turn to me and I can feel the weight of their exhaustion weighing down on top of my own.

"When we're dead tired at the end of the fourth do we quit?" I yell louder and my voice echoes through the empty practice arena. 

"No!" The team answers in unison, their rough voices sounding more alive than they look.

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