dont stop believin - Journey

On The Outside Looking In

The serenity of untouched, glimmering water; unforgettable. The sun’s rays shine through the windows making the water shimmer. The water is completely calm; nothing there to disturb it. The water sits, waiting expectantly, for someone to dive in and take a stroke. Around me, in the pool area, the quiet hum of the atmosphere seems peaceful and unobtrusive.

I snap back into reality by my coach telling me to start stretching. It is an important day today. It is the state meet. I’m a jumble of emotions: fear, enthrallment, motivation, and anxiety all mixed into one. I look around and feel proud to be here, going over, for the millionth time, what I will be swimming today. It required a lot of hard work and perseverance to get here. Being a freshman at state was more than I had hoped for. I’ve been swimming for eleven years and was extremely nervous about making varsity when the season first started. I had been distressed since tryouts, hoping that I possessed enough talent to make varsity as a freshman. My fear melted away when I learned I was put in the “advanced training group.” That meant I would more than likely be on varsity. As I reached down to touch my toes with the rest of my team, I recalled the time when I qualified for my first individual event in state, the 100 backstroke.

It was the Smoky Hill Invite swim meet, a prelim/final meet. In prelims, I had slipped off the wall when I started my race. While swimming the race I felt dismayed and I remember thinking to myself, “This is hopeless.” Getting out of the pool after that race in the morning I had been disheartened, mentally angry with myse
Our awesome "A-relay" at State
lf, and apprehensive. Frowning, I remember those feelings running through my mind and the disappointment churning in the pit of my stomach. I felt as if that victory had eluded me once more leaving a pit of despair inside of me. But, smiling again, I remember somehow I turned around during the day and when I swam that event again that night, I gave it all I had and qualified. I visibly relaxed as all the pressure and apprehension evaporated into the atmosphere above me. I was absolutely exhilarated when I turned and looked at my final time on the scoreboard. I still haven’t forgotten my coach’s words to me, “Congratulations! And qualifying in this pool after swimming this morning; I’m impressed.”

The memory faded slowly as I turn and dig around in my bag for my cap and goggles ready to go warm up to start the day. I take a deep breath as we push through the throngs of people everywhere and go to the pool deck. There are already numerous swimmers in the water, no doubt, trying to get in an effective warm up. Most of the swimmers here are experienced, like me, and know what to expect. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I knew these swimmers were much faster than the ones I had encountered during duel meets. It was a year-round meet all over again. My heartbeat quickens as a tingling sensation feels its way through the very tips of my fingers, that twinge of fear in my gut still increasing as I remember how fast some of these girls really are but the sensation gradually ceased when I remembered I was also there for a reason. However, that did not stop me from knowing what I was up against. The knotted fear in my stomach kept growing, filling up my mind, as the morning progressed.

I qualified for three events, more than I hoped for, and also made some of the A-relays. The last meet before state I qualified at the last minute for two other individual events, the same day: the 100 butterfly, and the 200 freestyle. I could hardly believe that I was capable of something like that! It seemed as if my smile never left my lips or my heart for the next few days. There are moments like that where I know I still have a genuine love for swimming and all the hard work was worth every second of my time. I left the pool that night feeling happier then I had in a long time.

I jumped, feet-first, into the pool. It was cold to the touch and sent shivers up and down my spine as the bubbles caused by my contact with the water surged around me. I submerged myself into the clear, blue water and gave a powerful kick to get back up to the surface to start swimming. The familiar technique starts to set in as I propel myself forward. Adjusting to the water temperature gradually, I continue swimming, the familiar taste of chlorine in my mouth. As I approach the wall, I keep my eye on the black strip of tiles run
A couple years ago at a year-round meet
ning down the wall as it comes nearer. Before I crash into it I flip, plant my feet on the wall and push myself off the wall feeling the cool water rush around me, my body in a streamlined position as to create as little friction as possible. It was as if the water and I were moving together in order to create the perfect environment. Without the water, the swimmer is nothing, and without the swimmer, the water serves no purpose. I stopped at the wall to catch my breath. When looking at the pool from above, it seems to be complete chaos, but from in the water things seem to be completely normal. Now that I was in the water, the current subtly splashing around me, that ball of fear that had been developing since early morning seemed to drop down to my feet spreading through my arms and through my fingertips. It was a good feeling, although slightly unnerving. My adrenaline was starting to kick up a notch. I took a deep breath as the clouds in my head began to disperse. Before I knew it, it was time to practice starts. I climbed out of the pool, a new shiver running through me as I felt the cold air brush past my skin. I gave a powerful shove off the blocks, crashing into the water below; I was ready to swim.

Once more, I sat behind the blocks on the pool deck out of everyone’s way. Watching the people walk by, I tried to quench the nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach I was so familiar with. Some of my fellow teammates smiled at me in encouragement as they walked by, heading down to their own lane. I tried to smile back, but my muscles seemed frozen. Feeling a sudden urge to stand up, I pushed myself off the ground and straightened up just in time to hear the beep that sent the first heat of my event into the churning water. I breathed in deeply, trying to calm my nerves. I closed my eyes and envisioned my race. I stepped up behind the blocks, for my heat was next. I inhaled and exhaled out slowly, staring straight ahead down the twenty-five yard lane. My nerves were quaking inside me, fooling me into thinking my fear would envelop me. I vaguely heard cheers at the end of my lane, but I paid no mind, I was focused on the race that lay ahead of me. The official blew the whistle; I stepped up on the block, and prepared to dive off. When I stood there, bent at the waist gazing at the gentle waves of the water below, a strange sense of serenity fell over me. I didn’t feel scared, but confident. I absentmindedly gripped the block when the official said, “Take your mark.” I breathed in sharply and immediately dove off the block with a powerful push at the sound of the starter. I was suspended in the air for a moment, moving closer towards the water with every second. I gracefully collided with the water, all of a sudden submerged, dolphin kicking furiously. I felt strong; a sense of determination filled my head. I took the first butterfly stroke raising my arms out of the water with ease. The water was now my world. Moving as one with the water, I reached the first wall. Th
Me at State with one of the seniors who is now graduated
e only thing on my mind was finishing that race as best I could. My stroke still felt strong. This is where I was supposed to be. At the moment, swimming this event was the next step in my swimming career. I raced down the center of the pool, my eyes only focused on the wall ahead of me. I could hear my club coach cheering for me on the side of the pool motivating me to push myself harder. Starting my third lap of four, my breathing became more rushed and my arms began to ache near my shoulder. It was a usual feeling, but it was not a feeling I wanted to feel; not now. I ignored the pain in my shoulder and concentrated on my technique. Swimming butterfly without technique is like eating cake without frosting. It can be done, but it does not allow you to push yourself to your limit. I reached the wall, and as I pushed off one last time, the dull ache in my legs became more prominent, my breathing becoming more ragged. I couldn’t quit, not now. I resisted the urge to slow down and pushed myself even harder. I just had to finish, 15 more yards to go although it seemed as if it would never end. Reaching the flags, I gave one final kick with the remainder of my strength as both my hands felt the wall at the same time; it was finished. Breathing rapidly, listening to cheers from my teammates, and the ache in my limbs reappearing, I turned to read the scoreboard. My face broke into an astonished smile as I looked at my final time. My time was a 1:02.85; a time that I hardly expected to swim. But, that’s what I was here for. That was the result of my hard work. The feeling of pride I get when I stand alone in a pool area came back as I hung onto the wall trying to catch my breath. Looking around my environment that felt like a second home, I closed my eyes, listening to myself breathe and feeling my heart pound against my chest. To me, swimming is the swimmer and the water working together as one to create an everlasting memory. Defined by hard work, perseverance, and success; the sport of swimming.
A lot of the group from State