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The Diving Meet This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Our big yellow school bus bumped along the highway as we anticipated our third swim meet of the season. We had just begun our journey to Westwood High School, 45 minutes away. It was already 3: 45 and the meet was to start at 4: 30. Practice time would be little to none, and we'd have to face these excellent champions with our unlimbered bodies and, as a result, unmotivated minds.

It had been the worst day for me. I had missed the previous day of school and already had three quizzes with hours of homework to make up. So, as our bus trudged along this infinite highway, I sat in a daze, trying desperately not to cry and wanting to be home.

Finally our bus stopped in front of a dreary building with the name "Westwood High School" printed in bold black letters across distinctly contrasting faded grey bricks. As we struggled with our bulky bags, we climbed out of the bus and marched like defeated soldiers through the large wooden doors that greeted us.

It was obvious that the team spirit was running low and all we wanted to do was get this chore out of the way as soon as possible. I was not here to have fun or to strive to do my best. I was only here to fulfill a commitment.

We filed into the locker room which not surprisingly was gloomier than the bricks that decorated the exterior of the school. We quickly changed into our flashy red, black and white bathing suits which at least made us appear like we knew what we were doing.

The Westwood team was decked out in solid green suits with white caps with "Westwood" printed in green, and the most powerful arms and legs we had ever seen on a swim team. Yes, it had always been our dashing suits that gave us incentive. However, everything about this team spelled out "dashing," and next to their display of perfection, our secondary suits amounted to nothing.

I journeyed to the diving board which was located at the far end of the pool. I attempted to warm up with a few dives, but the cold water tore through me like a bolt of electricity every time I penetrated the smooth, glassy surface.

The two Westwood divers were friendly enough, but I became extremely intimidated by their precise dives and their devout concentration. Their coach paid the utmost attention to them, and every time they completed a dive, he would rush with words of encouragement and criticism. I watched the way he eyed them from the moment they stepped onto the board to the time when their heads would come shooting out of the water to look for his invaluable opinion. I felt like such an intruder to this intense diver/coach relationship. My coach was very busy making out papers for the meet and helping my teammates. I forgave him for not eyeing me with that consistent concentration and not correcting all my mistakes. After all, he was very busy.

I sat myself down on the hardwood paint-chipped bleachers and vainly attempted to warm myself with my paper-thin towel. I sat in this manner, shivering, and awaited my event.

When the time came, my teammates cheered me on by saying silly things like "You're prettier than them anyway" and "I saw her, and she's not that great." I thought No, only Olympic material. I knew they all thought the same.

I lugged my frozen body over to the diving board and wished the Olympiads good luck. A wink from my coach, a thumbs-up from the judges, the picking up of my heart off the floor, and we were ready to go.

I was to go second, and the better of the two Olympiads, Sara, was first. She was certainly a tough act to follow. Her first dive, a reverse, was completed with such precision, accuracy and grace that the judges could give her nothing less than straight sixes down the board.

It was my turn. I threw down my dishrag and stepped up to the board. As I stared straight ahead, everything became a colorful blur. It was as if someone had taken a large paintbrush and smeared everyone's body into one big gloppy mess. I suppose I was making an attempt at intense concentration, however, I could find none. I was simply too cold, too intimidated and too sick with this entire ordeal. Nevertheless, I began my descent down the plank. I moved slowly, deliberating each step and after completing my hurtle, I pushed off the board with all the strength I had.

I don't remember anything else except the feeling of wanting to cry more than I have ever wanted to cry before. I had popped my head out of the water just in time to hear "3, 3, 3." My teammates hurried to comfort me, but there was something going on in my head that they just did not understand. I wasn't upset because we were losing the meet, nor was I upset because I had achieved the lowest score I have ever received in a meet. It was the fact that I had given up on myself before I had even begun, and this, in itself, suffocated me to such an extreme that I could not stop crying until very late that night. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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