All eyes were on me and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. The race was announced and my competitors and I listened as we were told to take our marks. Time slowed to a creeping halt until the low pitched beep sounded, signifying the start. Time sped up and I had no choice but to dive into the pool and start swimming.
The memory of my first swim meet is one that I will never forget. I had only been swimming competitively for a couple weeks but my coach insisted on having me swim butterfly in an "A" meet against swimmers one age group above my own. Now let's get one thing straight, I am not a fast swimmer, so my coach's reasoning was beyond me.
What was great about my coach was that he was not one of those coaches who cared solely about winning. He would take the time to teach me the right way to swim no matter how long it took. He always made sure I understood the correct technique before adding speed. Based on his coaching style, I would like to believe that one of the reasons he wanted me to swim this race was that he knew I had the skill to complete it without disqualifying.
The day before the meet was Friday and at practice my coach had introduced an incentive for our team to swim the best we could. The incentive was a t-shirt which was perfect because let's face it; what kid doesn't like getting a free t-shirt?
Another thing I should mention is that for the past few months before the meet, one of my best friends was living with my family because her family had moved and she wanted to finish out the school year. This wouldn't be relevant except that the extremely early morning of her flight back to her family happened to be the same as my first swim meet. Because she had such an early flight, we all had to get up before the crack of dawn. These circumstances made me even more stressed because in addition to having to wake up extraordinarily early and being pretty exhausted before the meet even began, I didn't know if I would ever see her again. It was really hard to say goodbye with so much on my mind. But after taking her to the airport and leaving her with her aunt, my family and I began our journey to my swim meet where we arrived right on time.
I was becoming more and more nervous as time went on. The last thing I wanted to do was let my team down. Luckily, my coach could tell I was nervous and informed me of some relieving news. He told me that there were only going to be three people swimming in my race including me, which meant as long as I didn't get disqualified, I would come in third place and score a point for my team! With that in my head, I was able to calm down a bit.
The meet went by slowly as each race seemed to take forever. Finally when all the breaststroke races ended and butterfly began, I made my way to the clerk of the course. As I sat down I noticed that two of my teammates were sitting with me and I remembered that there were only three people in my race. Knowing that my only competitors were my teammates also helped calm my recurring nerves.
When it was finally our turn to swim, the clerk of course lead me and my two teammates to the edge of the pool. At this point, the somewhat calm person who I was before quickly became frantic as the race was announced. The few seconds in between the announcement and the starting signal felt as if they were years apart. My heart was beating as if I had just finished a marathon before swimming this race. But then the signal sounded with the real possibility of disqualifying in my head I dove into the water.
It was hard to believe that just a couple of weeks earlier I only swam for fun. But here I was swimming, what some would say is the hardest stroke in front of what felt like thousands of people. As my head broke the surface in between each of my strokes all I could hear was the cheering and shouting of the crown, then the silence of being underwater, then cheering again. I turned at the opposite end and continued swimming. I could feel that my heart was now pounding even more violently than before.
I felt my arms drop down into the water following my last stroke. As my arms straightened underneath the cool water, the quick up and down rhythm of my butterfly transformed into a momentary streamline until, at last, I felt my hands hit the wall back where I started. When I lifted my head, gasping for air, my ears immediately filled with overwhelmingly loud cheers. I looked around and noticed that my two teammates finished before me. This did not bother me because when I saw my coach, his reaction indicated that I did not disqualify and that I came in third place! The first and most challenging race of my competitive swimming career was extremely successful and I accomplished everything I came to accomplish. I came in third place and scored a point for my team!
The day was not over yet. My coach still had to hand out a t-shirt to one boy and one girl who he felt swam exceptional races. Everyone was listening to him with anticipation as he began to describe the first race. As he was describing it, I felt everyone's eyes on me. All of a sudden, my name was called an again the crowd went wild! When I examined the shirt I noticed some words that were written on the back. These words described a title given to the kids who received these shirts and because this was the first meet of the season and the first year my coach gave out these shirts, I was the first one to receive this title. I was the first "Swimmer of the Week"!
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