Courtesy of Franco Pacheco
It seems there are moments in our lives that stop everything. For the generations before us, it was the day the first Kennedy was assassinated or FDR’s Fireside Chats. For my generation, it was the moment the towers fell and a recognition of how our country pieced itself back together. Most recently, our focus has keyed on the attacks in Paris, the Missouri campus crisis, Michael Phelps’ return, and, for some odd reason, the design of a particular company’s coffee cups.
The tragedy in Paris is one that spans the human condition. The racial tensions in Missouri touch on our awareness of our humanity and our relationship with others. Phelps is an attention grabbing headline that is more fun than substance. The Starbucks nonsense is just that; nonsense. While many words will go out on what has happened in Paris and many more thoughts and prayers are needed, this article will not be joining that sentiment. Nor will it cover the beliefs, moral leanings, and the various definitions of righteousness that will play out on Missouri’s campus. It won’t join the hundreds of swim articles about Phelps or even glorify the cup fiasco beyond this sentence. Instead, this article is simply about a series of moments that mean nothing in the scheme of things but were everything in their brief lifespan. That’s what human condition is; brief moments with fleeting validity.
Somewhere in Texas today, or Sherman to be more exact, Colorado College, Austin College, and Saint Gregory’s University met for a double dual meet. The crowd in attendance wouldn’t even challenge that of Phelps’ personal security team and very little was on the line other than pride. The competitors were walking the line of thinking about the state of world after an immense tragedy and preparing to compete.
In truth, the planning for the meet had given at least one coaching staff hours of work and consideration and, even if it was only pride on the line, the tension was palpable. To walk into the Hannah Natatorium was to walk into a heat wave of anticipation. The pool’s 1980 design was one of staged concrete and deep gutters. The acoustics made every cheer and movement booming and the air of significance was easily fostered. The stage was set as follows: The Colorado College Women’s team would walk away with both dual meets comfortably but the Men’s team was faced with an impossible task. Having only six members due to injury, travel, and extenuating circumstance, even being competitive would be a daunting at best.
It is important I pause now to point out I am an assistant coach for Colorado College. I spent hours the night before finding someway to make it work. I could now spend the next paragraph telling you race by race how the meet went, how all three teams swam incredibly, or how we just missed an outstanding upset by a couple of touches; but that misses the point. Again, this isn’t that kind of article. Instead, we will just talk about a moment.
After a day that saw every member of the Colorado Men’s team swim three individuals, there was a 500 Free. Five swimmers stepped to the blocks, two from Colorado and one from Saint Gregory’s and Austin each. To sweep the top of the event would keep Colorado alive and give Saint Gregory’s a chance against Austin. The starter sounded and as it echoed off the corners of the building, something special happened. Even with everything going on in our consciousness, with the meet being essentially decided on the Women’s side and Men’s side careening in that direction, a place in time for everyone on deck was captured.
The race itself was a back and forth affair. Coaches and swimmers alike were walking the deck cheering and the people in the stands were locked in on the drama playing out below. It was simple, it was real, and it was meaningful in its moment. There would be a team that came out on top and everyone else, but it was evident that result would not come without a fight. The lead changed hands; swimmers fell back and charged forward. There were final charges and ultimately, excited finishes. The race ended with a Colorado win after a dramatic comeback by Sophomore Trey Watmore but that is beside the point. The point is and will remain that it happened and fifty-something people were there and the hearts and minds of fifty-something people were captured.
That is the type of article this is. It is about what something as meaningless as twenty lengths of a pool can mean in its moment. It is about how three sets of individuals can come together into teams to be a part of something. Its about how even when our world is stopped, we move forward and triumph by not stopping. Somewhere in Texas, somewhere in California, and everywhere else something other than tragedy, controversy, and celebrity will hold everyone’s heart. Tomorrow the sun will rise and we will move forward as the human race, as a country, and as a sport. We will do it with heavy hearts for lost lives and concern for what may come, but the important thing is that we do it. In the scheme of the world, everything we do in swimming is meaningless, but its in these moments that we are part of a greater whole. Each race we swim and each line-up we dive serve as a commitment to being a part of the next morning and each subsequent sunrise after. We are all meaninglessly meaningful and that is magic.