A Moment to Remember: My First Swim Meet

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Chlorine. That rank, off-key kind of smell was one that I had come to despise throughout my years in elementary school. It was also currently the smell sitting in my nostrils, soaking in my swimsuit, and filling every crevice imaginable in the room. Chlorine, for me, as a six year old girl many years ago, had come to symbolize the endless swim team practices after school and occasional daunting swim competitions I would have to attend. These competitions, including my first one at the YMCA, were events to be cherished for years to come.

The date of my first swim meet was April the 28th. It was a Sunday; a day usually spent relaxing and finishing up schoolwork. At the moment however, this was a day of nervousness, tension - and ultimately - contentment. As a second-grader, knowing that many people would watch me swim daunted, and even frightened me; that state of mind is something I clearly recall. I also particularly remember walking out of the girls' locker room onto the cold, damp tile along the adjacent deep-end pool. Parents, siblings, and friends were milling around the snack stand and casually making small talk while I was in a moment of complete and utter terror. My panic must have shown, because Coach Carl-my swim teacher- took one glance at me beneath his customary baseball cap, and reassured me with words of kindness: "You'll be fine. Don't worry about anything, 'cause it doesn't matter if you win or lose. This is just for fun." Those last few words became a mantra that I repeated in my head during the wait, and finally, on the swim board.

The board was cold, rough, and hard. My small fingers held onto the edge with a steely grip until my knuckles became a slightly nuanced version of the board; a faded white. Perched like a cat ready to pounce on its helpless victim, I stayed in position on the board and focused on the clear-blue, seemingly fathomless water. Then in an instant, or an era, the electronic beep signaled the beginning of the race.

By the time it rang through the air, I was halfway to the water. The splash of the pool resounded through the air before it became muffled. Underwater, I stretched my arms and legs, cupped my hands, and butterfly kicked my way through the water. Then I surfaced, and all of the outward commotion came to life. Oblivious to the screams and yells of the supportive audience, I slapped and kicked my way through the water towards the big, black cross at the end of the pool. I was a tropical fish; a streak of navy blue, fluorescent yellow, green, and purple. My brightly pattern swimsuit juxtaposed with my feelings: I wasn't nervous anymore. Just determined to win.

When I touched the ledge at the end of the pool, I was out of breath and my muscles were worn and tired. Despite this momentary weariness though, I was filled with delight. I now felt light and almost gleeful from the relief that the race was over. Everything that seemed daunting before now looked warm and welcoming. The cold, fathomless water now seemed serene, clear, and tempting; the people on the stands seemed like they were genuinely enjoying themselves-not judges scrutinizing my every move; and the swimmers in the lanes around me actually seemed like normal people! Once my goggles were off, I hoisted myself out of the lane and wrung out my hair. Every droplet that landed in the pool was similar to the worries I had before the race: They disappeared in the blink of an eye.

This memorable first swim meet ended well. It made the rest of my week a celebration, and it marked the beginning of several more swim competitions to come. Swimming, in itself, molded me in many aspects into the person I am today. As a young girl in the second grade, I was quite naive and was easily influenced by outward factors. From competitions, I soon learned that contending and being nervous is a part of life just as freedom is a part of America. These competitions may not have made me a future Olympian, but my first swim meet, along with many others, prepared me for the obstacles and successes of life soon to come.





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