The Relay

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Prelims were over, the math had been done, and we were ahead by a measly 11 points. The final relay was up, and it was do or die, win or lose, show up or be shown up. The boys were ready, and they knew their task. Beat the Panthers or go home. This was never about beating Hopewell, or making it to states, or being the MVP of the meet, this was about the Men’s team walking home with a state championship under their belts. Because this is swimming, not some sport like football where N.M. limps into the playoffs season after season. We were ready, and we wanted to win.

As the 400 meter freestyle relay was about to begin, all the boys and girls from both rival schools made their way up to the rails. They were ready to do whatever they could to help their teams to go that extra mile. From freshman, to sophomores, to juniors, to seniors, all in blue were behind those four boys. In their eyes, nothing could stop them. The crowd’s excitement heightened as the referees whistle signaled the call up to the blocks. Five long whistles were the start of a race that could define or end a season. As Tyler F. hopped up on the block against Andy R. from the Panthers, all former friendships were broken, this was grudge time, time to take back the title as number one team after a two point loss at the regional competition just a week ago. Divers were out of the picture, all the events were over, and it was time for the final relay.
“TAKE YOUR MARK,” announced the head referee. BEEEEEEEEP! As soon as the sound of the starter rolled throughout NC State’s tiny pool the crowd erupted in a thunder of emotion that can only be described as madness. From the high pitched tones of the sophomore girls to the deep bellows of the rest of the boys team the race was off.
The first leg of our relay led by Tyler was as expected, not our best one. As Tyler coasted into the wall after a grueling four laps, Brooks dove into the pool for his turn. Now about a half a body length behind, nothing seemed to be changing. The NM sideline only shouted louder. But Panthers knew that victory could soon be theirs. But NM wasn’t out of it yet.
Brooks rounded the last lap of the 100 with a ferocity that cannot be described, but still half a body length behind. Finally it was time for what had seemed to be our secret weapon all meet long. J.T. dove in with almost a body length of a lead to make up, absolutely no easy task. But the Panther’s lead was little to come by after JT finished his 100. JT absolutely crushed the opponent from down south and glided into the wall with about a yard between them.
Thomas is in the water, no problem right? Done deal? Call the meet? State champs already? Possibly, but what fun would that be? This was Thomas’s fourth race of the day and fatigue was almost inevitable. The boys on the relay just had to hope that P’s Ben C. was feeling the heat of lactic acid in his muscles as well. After the first 50, there was basically no change; Thomas still held his lead by about a yard, maybe a little less. Unfortunately though, this is when the Thomas’s pain became noticeable, or at least Ben C. felt a jolt of energy. All of a sudden Ben was right on top of Thomas and passing him quickly. Thomas couldn’t let this go unchallenged. As both of them lunged for the wall the teams on the sidelines had their fingers crossed. All looked up at the clock to see the final result, was it the Vikings from N. M., or the Panthers?

As blue jacketed girls and boys groaned in defeat the black and gold of providence was jumping up and down like there was no tomorrow. Ben C. had done it; he had caught the mighty Thomas and taken N.M.’s dreams away, all in that one instant.

But was it really over? Our coaches and parents had the margin between the two teams at 11 points before the relay, and with only 8 points between first and second from the relay, had the Vikings been victorious after all?

“And with the final results,” the announcer said, “By an incredibly close margin of a mere three points…” all in the tiny pool were on their feet “your state champion for Men’s Swimming is…..N.M. MENS SWIMMING!” Coach Queen couldn’t do anything but shake his head and laugh. All that pressure, all that anticipation, all the disappointment after the relay, and we had done it. What a season.





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