SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]
This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Ashley Reed, a 15-year-old swimmer from Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Take your mark,” the official says. The nerves disappear as I bend down and grasp the bright white block. My whole body tenses. It is all muscle memory.
And then I hear the familiar sound of the buzzer. My legs burst into motion as I fling myself off the platform into the Olympic-size pool. We are off. Butterfly is my best stroke. I am breezing through it. I feel like a dolphin gliding through the water at full speed. My body rolls like a ripple of water as I pull far ahead of everyone around me. I gain some confidence. I can do this, I tell myself. I can get my National (cut) in the 400 individual medley (IM).
Before I know it I’ve swum a hundred meters and now it is time for backstroke. Usually, I slow down on backstroke because I am tired from fly, but today I don’t; I force myself to keep persisting. My arms spin in circles. I am pulling the water as hard as I can. I am on pace. I can feel it. I can do it. I make sure that my underwater dolphin kicks are strong; I am torpedo as I push off the wall with my arms tight above my head in streamline.
By the end of the backstroke, my heart is racing and my muscles ache telling me to stop or slow down, but I refuse. You are halfway, no slowing down now. I know this won’t be like before when I missed the time by the touch of a button. Literally, .05 of a second faster and I would have gotten the National. One faster turn. One less breath. One timer pressing the stopwatch just a little faster. But that all doesn’t matter now. What matters is the monstrous size of a pool that looms ahead.
It is now time for breaststroke. My pull out gets me going. My breaststroke has a good tempo. It feels so smooth and better than ever before. I think of all the times I have wanted to quit, but kept going during practices. I can hear my coach’s voice yelling from the pull deck to go faster every time I take a stroke and breathe. I don’t have to see him to know that he is jumping up and down, yelling, and sprinting along the pool deck beside me as I swim. His excitement pushes me forward, it lets me know that I can do this. You are still on pace. You can actually get it. You can get your National in the 400 IM!
I took my last stroke into the wall and switched to freestyle. Only one more 100 left, you got this. I feel like I am going to throw up I am trying so hard. My free kick has the hardest kick ever. Every time I took a breath to my right I could see Coach Tom cheering. “Go! You got this! Go!” I hear it in pieces, but it is enough to force me to go faster and push my limits. He knew I would get it. My pull makes me glide forward. I can feel how fast I am going. I flip. Only one more 50.
All of my muscles burn. I am out of breath, but I still push forward. I am going as fast as I can possibly go. The wall gets closer one second at a time. I bury my head and keep swimming. I can not give up now. The wall comes into my view and I know I can’t take another breath. Three strokes. Two strokes. One stroke. And then I hit the wall with enough force to knock down a building. I turn around and see my time on the board. My vision blurs as I burst into tears of happiness. My time was 5:13.62. I have gotten the National by 5.37 seconds. I have reached my goal of getting a National before I turned 15. I have missed the National by tenths and even one hundreths of a second before, but now I have finally done it. All summer I had put blood, sweat, and tears into every practice. I had done two practices a day just to get better. My sister even told me I could not do it, but I did and I can’t even explain how happy I am because of it.
Ashley is a 15-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio who has always been attracted to the water. She started swimming competitively at the age of six and hasn’t stopped since. When she’s not swimming, most of the time she’s still surrounded by the water. She enjoys water skiing and tubing. She also has a passion for reading, writing, and engineering.