The sound of splashing water echoes throughout the pool. Almost drowned out by the sound of cheering fans are the thoughts of the swimmers and coaches. The referees, with their intent faces, follow every move in the pool.
The smell of chlorine wafts through the pool. It clings to the bodies of the swimmers and weighs down the air. It is a euphoric smell that excites them.
The girl behind block three is not new to this game. She knows how to repress the noise and concentrate on only what faces her. We can win this race. Trish will catch up for us, and then all I have to do is keep up. Her relay is almost half over and in less than 50 seconds her body will be in the water, driving its way to the wall.
"Go Trisha, Go!" she screams. Soon Kristy is joined by the voices of her two fellow teammates. Kristy watches as Trisha passes the second set of flags. She climbs the block and places her feet precisely on the number three. The picture in front of her shows none of what she expected. Trisha is losing ground. It will be entirely up to her to win the race.
The muscles in her body immediately tense. All at once her body is overwhelmed. Her mind swirls with thoughts. The smell of chlorine once calming and soothing now has an asphyxiating effect. The air is heavy, weighing down her shoulders. The stress is prevailing. Let go, her mind tells her and she immediately shakes and loosens up the muscles that were tight. She clears her mind. Ready to enter the water her only thoughts must be of the race ahead of her.
Breath in, then out, slowly, her mind tells her. They mimic the way her mom taught her to relieve stress when she was little and she and her sister fought.
Trisha comes closer and closer, then finally Kristy springs off the block and into the water. She focuses on the wall ahead of her. She changes her focus to the girl in the lane next to her. She is a body length ahead. Kristy knows that it will take a small miracle and a very good turn to win.
The shoulders' muscles ripple. The water is in turmoil swirling to and fro with every stroke. The swimmers form a "V" like ducks flying south. Arms fly out of the water and back in like wings surging to the finish. Thoughts collaborate into one plea. "Faster!"
As she draws closer to the wall her thoughts fail to focus and as her body begins the rotation she switches into automatic pilot. Her turn is the same as in any other race, one thoughtless fluid motion that brings her even closer to her opponent.
She can see the swimmer ahead of her clearly and with every stroke she draws nearer. All efforts are trained on winning. The muscles contract and relax in perfect rhythm. All the hours of practice and hard work focus into the last 15 yards. Finally, the two girls are head and head, stroking to the final finish, pushing each other to the end. As it looms closer, Kristy gives her last bit of energy and attacks the wall with the ferocity of an animal.
She lifts her head out of the water and turns to the scoreboard above her. The win is hers by one one hundredth of a second! l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.