Being in Lane 8 meant I could see none of the runners behind me. The fastest qualifying runners would be in lanes 2, 3, and 4 and all of those runners were from 5A metropolitan school in the Albuquerque area. I figured I wouldn't see any of them till about the 2nd turn as they passed me headed toward the final stretch. Lane 8 truly is a killer. You truly are flying blind out there.
My brother was able to leave his football practice early. Since his college team's practice field was right next to the track, he was able to run over after practice to watch. I saw him hanging over a railing down by the finish line. If anything, I would get to see him for a little bit after the race before I headed back to Artesia.
I got in my blocks, the gun went off, and I truly ran for my life. What happened next would be one of the only memories I would allow myself to have in the years after high school. As I predicted, I didn't see another runner the entire race, but not because they passed me. No one passed me because the skinny kid with braces from Artesia in Lane 8 ran the third fastest time in the state, ever, and won the event. I remember rounding the final turn wondering where the hell the other runners were at until I saw Kirk. Yes Kirk. The brother whose shadow I never thought I would escape was jumping up and down like a maniac at the rail by the finish line. That's when I knew I was winning the race. I crossed the finish line, celebrated with my brother, and enjoyed one of the best Springs of my life. That race broke a school record for the 400 meter dash. A record that still stands to this day. I went undefeated in the 400 meter dash that Spring and ended up winning an individual state championship in the 400 meter dash. I went into that summer on cloud 9. I was slated to start on the high school football team that Fall. I was a state champion. I was living every Artesia kid's dream.
But that summer was stolen by my abuser. He used my success to solidify himself as my biggest cheerleader and fan. He used that support to make our "connection" and "relationship" stronger. He was my position coach in football the next year. He was a pole vault coach on the track team the following two years. He was at every football game. He was at every meet. When other kids were sitting in the back of the bus having every right of passage you can imagine, I was sharing a seat with him. The next year at the same meet that made me a temporary star, he made sure to chaperone the trip. I didn't win anything and he was there to "comfort" me in the back of the van as we headed back to Artesia while everyone else had drifted off the sleep for the long ride home. I never won another state championship. I came in 5th the next year and 7th the year after that. I never came within a second of the times I ran that spring. The weight of the "secret" made sure of that.
The haze and fog of my high school years rolled in that summer and never lifted. I withered away for my remaining years. I got very good at playing the role of high school student, and I still have trouble remembering many details of my junior and senior years. I have blocked them out for years and it still shocks me in therapy that I won't allow myself to access that time in my life. I know that is part of trauma recovery and each week we chip away at it, but I know it will be awhile before I come to peace with those years.
In my parent's old boxes, I recently found a trophy I hadn't seen in 20 years. It was the trophy awarded to the Track Athlete of the Year given out by my high school. My trophy says "Track Athlete of the Year, 1999, Jake Robbins". I also found the picture of myself receiving that award. All the track coaches were lined up to shake hands with the award winners. In the picture, I am at the end of the line holding my trophy and the hand I was shaking was his.
Abuse can happen anywhere. Abuse can happen to anyone. The people in my hometown would have never believed what was happening to me. There just wasn't space in our town for this realization. Towns like to stick to narratives they create and Artesia didn't have space to spot the signs of sexual abuse, especially from a high school coach and teacher. That is not blame. It is truth. I don't blame Artesia. I blame my abuser. My hope is that by writing and sharing my story, I can break down stigmas and help create more awareness and safety for possible victims of childhood sexual abuse. Especially in hometowns like mine.