Championship meets are the lifeblood of swimming. They represent the culmination of an entire season’s work, placing high expectations on swimmers to perform well. Comprised of some of the best that the world has to offer, championship meets are exciting for both the athletes and the spectators.
In no particular order, here are the 7 best aspects of championship meets:
1. The Warm Up
This could also be on the “7 worst aspects of a championship meet” but what would a championship meet be without its chaotic, pre-meet shenanigans? It’s unpleasant to receive a kick to the face or a stray elbow to the chest, but there’s no question of whether or not you’re awake afterward. A championship meet warm-up is exciting because you get to see a myriad of pre-race rituals, practices and techniques, which you can incorporate into your own routine. The higher the level you get to, however, the more…err..assertive your warmup lane mates will become if you’re not moving fast enough. Act accordingly.
2. Down and dirty competition
A race is always indifferent. It does not matter if you didn’t sleep well the night before, lost your favorite pair of goggles or if you happened to contract food poisoning from the shady buffet down the street, a race is not going to wait for you to feel better. It’s a bittersweet component of the sport. The second you hear the words, “Take your mark…” anything is possible. From that moment forward, it is an even playing field, and any swimmer can take the gold.
3. The cavalier announcers
Amidst the monotony of the endless heats of 1650’s or 1500’s is a voice that somehow manages to keep you captivated and entertained: the announcer. Perhaps it’s a corny joke or two about how the pace of the meet is a bit slow, or maybe the mispronunciation of a few swimmers’ names, somehow, the announcer is a constant source of comic relief in an otherwise intense atmosphere.
Although, the higher the level you go, once again, things change. Get to Nationals, and you might have Sam Kendricks or Michael Poropat calling and asking if that “s” at the end of your name is silent or not. That’s when you know you’re in the big time, and that’s a cool memory in and of itself.
4. The location
Outside of the realm of swimming, the locations of championship meets have plenty to offer. Food, music, or simply places you haven’t seen before are all there to be had during or after the meet. Simply experiencing the local culture away from the pool can make a trip worthwhile.
5. It’s almost over
One of my fonder memories of the sport occurred during Junior Nationals several years ago. On the last day of competition, I was so tired after my final race that I refused to warm down, found a remote corner of the pool, and had the best nap a person could ever have. It’s a great feeling to have the season come to a close, no matter how the meet went for you.
6. Marking your territory
The first day of the meet always determines the seating for the rest of the meet. If you want a good spot, like under the diving boards or near the blocks, you best be there bright and early staking out the best real estate the pool has to offer. After all, the majority of a championship meet is spent sitting on the bleachers, so make it count. It’s always entertaining to watch coaches stare each other down as they attempt to get as much room as possible for their team.
7. The hotel
Assuming you don’t stay in the local motel with fleas in the sheets and dubious stains on the wall (that’s probably named after a car – “Cadillac Inn”), the hotel can be a fun aspect of a championship meet. Be it shaving in the shower, enjoying a full-size bed or not having to tidy up every morning, the hotel experience is integral to a championship meet. It’s best to plan to block off a set of rooms, though, because with everyone on high-taper alert,