Finding Their Stride
A Team of Young Runners Races to the Finish
By Sally Pont
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151003471, 240pp.)
Publication Date: April 1999
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Sally Pont is an outstanding runner who writes, and a brilliant writer who runs. In the tradition of Friday Night Lights, Finding Their Stride is the story of her year coaching a co-ed cross country team. It is a heartwarming tale of wonderful kids doing what they love, and doing it well; and it is a surprising story of triumph. At Moravian Academy, a small, independent school of 247 students, runners are not sports gods. They're outsiders, artists and actors, the scholarship kids who have side jobs and study far into the night. Whenever they excel, it's for the pleasure of it. Rich and poor, immigrant and entitled, these young men and women jump off the page, from Sally's raucous pre-season spaghetti dinner through the heart-stopping end of the season. Each week, Pont takes us to a new meet, with the girls and boys running separate races. As we watch the season unfold, the girls begin to find a new stride, and by the end, they're running on air. Up the hills and around the curves of every practice and race, Sally Pont is there, running along with them, encouraging, understanding, and comforting them. She loves the team, and we do, too. We also come to love the writer, not only for her gifts, but for her great heart. The long-distance race is a mythic archetype, cutting to the heart of who we are. This book, in which young women emerge as stars under the tutelage of a caring coach, adds new dimension to that myth.
Sally Pont teaches English at Moravian Academy, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she is associate dean of students. She holds an M.F.A. in writing from Penn State, where she studied with Paul West.