“Do I really have to swim this Coach Strong? It’s so long and I don’t want to have to do two laps of backstroke! I choked in my first event!” I complained as I looked out to see the sun blazing down onto the pool.
I was at our rival high school, standing next my coach, “strong”. It was my first official swim meet, and I was stoked to be there, but something that was bothering me. I blamed it all on the next event. The event was challenging,
I was not prepared, mentally to take on something so challenging. I had done a decent job in my other events; however, I was all riled up about this one. It was a 200-yard Independent Meledy. It included eight laps of four different strokes and it was long distance, my specialty, but not the easiest task.
“Next event, 200 I.M. Girls ages 14-16s,” Coach Fitz voice blasted through the speakers. Hearing his voice come through the speakers caused him to sound like a new person.
“Alright Rhea, I know your nervous, but you’ve got it in you! Go! Go! Go!” Coach Strong cheered as I ran over to the blocks. “I know you can do it!” I heard her yell.
This was it, the last event of the meet.
It was about five seconds before my head touched the cool water, but it felt like eternity. Swimmers bent down and held the edges of the blocks. I hoped I looked professional and collect on the diving block, but on the inside my stomach it felt like a jar had just released millions of butterflies to roam around, and my heart was ready to jump out of my chest. The water grinned at me almost as if it was taunting me, “come on, come on.”
Beep! The buzzer roared, and everyone leaped off the blocks and plunged into the still water causing it to erupt into a million ripples. The sudden contrast of the cool water calmed me for a moment, but then I realized I still had a race to win. I started to rise and kicked as soon as I hit the surface.
Start with butterfly, I told myself as I was going through the order in my head to take my mind off of the strain in my muscles. I pulled my arms back and began the stroke. Again, again, and again. I hoped I wouldn’t choke and hold myself back this time. It wasn’t long until I reached the wall. I did my turn then kicked off, starting my second lap of the butterfly.
Next up was backstroke. At the start of my backstroke, I probably got a gallon of water up my nose. Gagging, as I resurfaced, I saw the flags, I counted five strokes, and then did my turn. More water rushed up my nose. It felt like a thousand needles scraping my brain.
When I pushed off the wall for breaststroke, my legs felt like stones wanting to sink to the bottom of the pool. I needed to catch my breath if I want to have a good shot at winning this thing. But I couldn’t stop. I thought about what Coach Strong said, I’ve got it in me.
It wasn’t long before I was approaching the wall for my finish. I heard the swimmers behind me struggling to catch up and get a shot at winning, but I needed to get there first.
Stroke, kick, stroke, kick. We were all like sharks hunting for the last piece of meat. I could hear everybody start to speed up.
I touched the wall, my nose clogged up to my brain, mouth full of water, and a swim cap ready to come off. I looked up and climbed up and out of the pool. The crowd cheered in unison like a flock of birds. They cheered, for me. I had succeeded. I never thought I’d be able to do it. I was trying to catch my breath and I was using all my might to stand straight and not melt into the floor, but I realized I swam it! The full 200 yards! I did it and got second. Thinking back to only about an hour ago when I was denying the offer to swim at the event, thinking how I thought I wasn’t capable of taking on such an intimidating task made me laugh. I had never felt as strong and confident. Thank you Coach Strong, I repeated in my mind hoping he would get the message.