Looking out the window as the bus came to a stop, wow…there it was… Belfire Pool.
This pool was once used for the Olympics in 1994. Many of the swimming legends have swum here, and now it was my turn. It was still dark outside, but a glint of sunrise was shimmering across the ocean. Yeah, this pool is right next to the beach. ‘Cool right!’
I saw Jerry gathering up his gear, so I followed pursuit. I turned down my music, but I still had one earbud in to keep my attitude upbeat.
I don’t know about everyone, but the scale and pressure of this meet was beginning to hit me. Really!! My future will be decided Friday at finals; so I need to swim my best today, and at be in the top eight…
‘Some of you might be confused… I will explain the basics real quick. Today is Prelims; Friday is finals. Top eight are in A finals. Ninth through sixteenth are B finals. If you are in either of these two group you will get to swim your races again on Friday. I know I am ranked in the top eight in my three races, so I just need to be better or stay the same.
Back to the important things. Like changing, stretching, warming up, captains meeting, coaches meeting…I was there for the captains meeting, but I wasn’t truly there. I was trying too stay focused on what really mattered. There were a few regular faces. Jacob Stevens, Ken’s rival in breastroke. Jeremy, the jerk from last week. And Timothy White…he was first in all of his races, he was the one with a target on his back.
This time Jenny and Brit went to the coaches meeting. Since there are thousands of athletes/ onlookers at this meet, coach is going to need all the help he can get making sure the lower lanes get to their races on time.
Coach, Brit, and Jenny were all walking ahead of Jerry and I. “You good dude? You weren’t very present for the meeting,” Jerry had swung his arm over my shoulder.
Shrugging his arm off of me, I need to keep my muscles relaxed, “I’m good. I am just focusing on my race. Today means everything, you know?”
“Yeah I know. Okay. Just don’t be too focused, that you miss your race or something,” he laughed as he walked faster to catch up to Coach.
‘Thanks dude. That is definately something that I or any other swimmer wants to hear…now I had something additional to focus on, not missing my races.’
Back at our team spot, Coach explained the differences of this meet to the JV swimmers “lower lanes”, they have never been to a meet this big. He handed out lists of our events, so that we could see and judge on how much rest we had between races. Since relays are swam on friday, they are starting with event number five. Today, I was swimming: event number eight: two-hundred freestyle, event number twenty-four: one hundred butterfly, and event number twenty-eight: one hundred freestyle. That was the one, the one hundred freestyle…
Now we wait. I was about to escape into my bubble of music and focus, when Jenny walked up.
“You ready for the big day today?” Jenny’s smile beamed with excitment.
“Yeah. But I’ve got to focus, so…” I lifted my earbuds to show her I wanted to be alone.
“Oh. No problem,” Jenny started to back away, “sure, you do you.”
“Thanks.” I turned away, put my earbuds in, and blasted my techno music. ‘Sorry Jenny, but this meet is different.’
I was just getting out of the warm-up pool when the announcer said, “Event number eight, heat six.” I heard the long whistle, ‘It has begun.’ You are probably wondering why I am not panicking…there are a lot of swimmers at this meet. Like in this event: two-hundred freestyle, there are one hundred and twenty-six people entered. So that means there are sixteen heats of swimmers. I am in the sixteenth heat. So I’ve got some time, don’t worry.
“You good to go, George?” Coach asked without looking at me, someone from our team was swimming.
“Yes Coach. I’ve warmed up a decent amount. Any plans for my race?” my muscles were beginning to tense so I started to strech.
“One sec…” Coach got the last split, and passed the watch to Jenny for her to take note. “Yes. Since this is not your normal race, I want you to experiment. As long as you follow my direction you should be able to bump up a few extra spots and be top four.”
“Okay. What is the plan?” I am all good for being in the top teir of swimmers.
“Jenny do we have anyone in this heat?” Coach snatched the watch from Jenny to get the start, while checking the booklet.
“Tom, but I’ll time him and watch his race; you talk to George,” Jenny swiped the watch back, and stepped in front of Coach.
Coach nodded, “It is great having help. Oh, right, George…” finally bringing his attention back to me.
I was waiting for it to be heat number fourteen before heading back behind the blocks. I had more space here by a window behind the coaches area, to stretch and jump around. I was still in my music bubble. It’s a swimmer thing.
“George. George?” Jenny shook my shoulder.
“What!?!” I took off my headphones. There stood Jenny. If she had not shook me I would have not even noticed she was there. “What’s up, Jenny?”
“Coach told me to tell you to go behind the blocks. Matthew is in heat fourteen. He wants you to go cheer for him behind the blocks,” she had reached down grabbing onto my arm trying to bring me into a standing position. She then proceeded to point to lane seven, sure enough there was Matthew preparing for the next heat.
“Okay,” good thing she came to get me; I was about to miss my race like Jerry said. “Can you hold onto this for me?” I said handing Jenny my phone and headphones. I assumed it was fine, because I had already walked away.