Why does Jesse feel that he has to be “the fastest kid in the fifth grade”? How does he prepare for this goal?
If we look in Chapter 1, we see several reasons for Jess's intense desire to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade:
1. Since there's not a lot of playground equipment and the older kids in sixth grade and above tend to grab it first, running is THE thing among the younger kids. It's major, and Jess wants to be a part of it.
2. When he won one race the previous year, it gave him a taste for winning. People talked about him all day, and for once he was known as someone who had bested the others--someone who was a winner, not just a shy kid who draws a lot.
3. He's excited to think that the younger kids at school, and his sisters, and his father will all be proud of him. Jess fantasizes about how those younger students will look up to him once he's known as the fastest kid in the fifth grade.
He thinks he can make this goal happen because of two things: his long legs, and his grit.
We see evidence of that grit as Chapter 1 continues: to work toward this goal of being the fastest in his grade, Jess gets up early every single morning throughout the summer before fifth grade and practices running. He sneaks out of the house while everyone else is sleeping, crouches down, and takes off with a bang, running as fast and hard as he possibly can, until he's soaked in sweat...even though he knows he'll also have to do his chores in the hot sun later on. And even when his body seems to be telling him to quit, he keeps going. That's grit!