Six and Under 25 Free

January 6, 2009
By Hallie Smith, Barrington, IL

Never in my life as a little girl was I shy, timid, or nervous. I was always bouncing all-over-the-place, outgoing, and happy. Being in the spot light had never sent shivers throughout my body; until that one moment. It was the big day; such a big race, for such a little girl. Why had I been this nervous? I had only practiced for several hours everyday for the last three weeks. Within every little step, every tiny movement, my body trembled beneath me; it felt like an earthquake had just erupted. I approached the blocks with fear and tension. All I had wanted to do was win. It was the first 25 meter freestyle race I would ever swim for the Wynstone sharks.
I got closer and closer to the block; I was soon within five feet, when I realized they did not have the same kind of blocks I had practiced on back at my home pool. The blocks at Medinah were wooden, cube like, with a little step on the back for someone to stand on. I was used to a normal block that was made out of heavy duty plastic and metal that was molded into the ground. I had realized that the person standing on the step had to, because their weight would hold the block down when I jumped into the water. Fear stuck my heart, faster than lightening, and the terror within my eyes was clearly visible. I began asking a million of questions to an older teammate, Jackie, who had escorted me steadily and calmly towards the block. What if the block falls in with me? What if I stand on it before you do, and fall in? What if you are not heavy enough to hold the block down? I was scared out of my little five-year-old mind, and it did not help that my mind began to imagine the worst possible outcomes.

A loud man over the megaphone announced, “Six and under, 25 free, on deck.”
It was time; time for my first race. I knew that I had to put all my fears behind me and concentrate. While Jackie nudged me forward and up onto the block, I put on my small green plastic swim goggles. I was finally there; on the block, and not falling into the water like I imagined. As I shifted my weight, side to side, I felt the unsturdy block wiggle below me. I knew I had to stop thinking about the block or else I would blow my race. I took my focus off of the block, and looked around at my surroundings. On the left side the pool, and me, was my family who was cheering louder than ever. My mom was snapping photos with my dad and little brother right next to her. My sister and her friends were at the end of my lane hollering. Their voices were full of encouragement. Suddenly, my vision began to blur, and all I could hear was screaming, chanting, and excited teammates. For the first time in my life I had felt the pressure to win, not because of myself, but because of all the screaming fans.
The man raised the megaphone up to his mouth, “Swimmers take your mark, get set, BOOM!”
The loud and powerful gunshot rung within my head and in seconds, I was in the water. Forgetting to close my mouth, I took in a huge mouth full of chlorine. I did not even worry about the taste of chemicals that floated throughout my mouth. Anxiously, I began swimming, almost forgetting to breathe. Stroke after stroke, kick after kick, I splashed my way across the pool. All I had to do was swim down and back, and I would win the race for sure. With my mind on the gold, and my heart determined, I began to move more rapidly thru the water. I was invincible. No way was another person going to get ahead of me.
“This is my race,” I thought to myself.
I pulled myself thru the water, and before I knew it, I was already making my turn. I lifted my head about water to take a quick breath and realized that almost everyone was in front of me. I started to panic. Was I really losing the race? I thought I had been going faster than everyone, I felt like I was going 300 miles per hour in the worlds fastest car. Defeat, ran across my red and angered face, but I was not giving up. I kicked it into gear and began kicking and pulling harder and harder. My breathing became less regular, and my stokes became more frequent, but I had almost caught up to the other kids. I knew I was moving fast when I could feel the water catch in my hand when I pulled it backwards, away from my body. I kept going and going, inching my way speedily past everyone. Observing that I was in the lead, I eased up and started swimming at a normal pace. Slowly, I got back into my regular routine of breathe, stroke, breath, stroke. I calmed down quickly, knowing the race was once again in my hands.
Chanting, screaming, and encouragement echoed across the water and down into my ears. I knew what this had meant; I was close to the finish line. I started plowing thru the water, eagerly excited, knowing this would be my first ever blue ribbon. I took in the moment, remembering everything, and then I emerged up and out of the water, and onto the surface. I had just won my first race.
I quickly pulled my self up and out of the water onto the pool deck, electrified about my first place, and went to stand up, when I realized that everyone was laughing hysterically. Why was everyone laughing? I was confused, usually all the swimmers were congratulated by their teammates and coaches. No one had ever been laughed at. I took a step forward before I saw my mom rushing towards me with a towel. She too was laughing. Had I missed out on some joke? The crowd began to swarm, teammates and coaches, and people began to talk. At last, I was getting the congratulations I had always dreamed of. Except, I had never pictured this. I listened carefully to the others speak, putting the pieces together, each telling their own story. Were they seriously telling the truth? Not only had I just won the race, but I had swam and extra 25 meters, lapped the other children, and managed to still finish first before them! Overwhelmed with enthusiasm and embarrassment, my face turned red and the biggest smile flashed across my small delicate face.
Up until this day I still get embarrassed when my mother tells this story. Probably because she still refers to me as the little shark who won the race-the nickname I received after my race. Even though I do get embarrassed, I love when she tells this story because it reminds me of how I have been determined ever since I was a little girl. Since my first race, I have been facing my fears, going above and beyond, and knowing that nothing can keep me from pursuing my goals. Thanks to my childhood determination, I have carried with me the key to success all along.

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