Everyone Loves a Medley This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 22, 2012
By
I would never have signed up for the 100-yard individual medley if I knew the size of my competition. Normally, I love swimming the individual medley, even though it has a reputation for being a tough event. But today, I was stuck.

“9-10 IMs to the deck!” screamed my coach. Here I go, I thought. I snapped my cap over my hair and slid my goggles through the strap of my bathing suit. The pungent scent of chlorine filled my nose as I stepped onto the slippery pool deck, slimy ­beneath my bare toes. Sheepishly, I stepped behind the lane four block and waited for my event to start.

“Alison?” the timer asked. I nodded, suddenly irked. I knew I was going to lose, so why did I even bother?

To my right, in lane three, one of my competitors was stretching, so I did too. Then my race started.

“Heat one, swimmers step up!”

Trembling, I climbed the wet step and planted my feet with my toes hanging over the block.

“Take your mark!” the announcer continued. With misgivings, I reached down and curled my fingers around the edge.

The buzzer went off, and I pulled myself forward, into the pool, as the timer clicked to start timing my race.

With my arms straight over my head, my fingertips broke the surface of the water, and soon I was engulfed, my legs kicking simultaneously.

I pulled my arms back and rotated them out of the water, over my head, then brought them down, pushing the water back and myself forward. I swam my butterfly lap as fast as I could, remembering my coach’s tips. Don’t breathe on every stroke. Bring your arms as far forward as you can.

Almost at the wall, I took two more strokes and hit the wall a bit too hard. Like an armadillo, I curled my legs up into ball, planting my feet against the blue tiles. I pushed off into my backstroke.

My arms were blades on a windmill, flying through the water. I kept my legs straight as boards as I kicked. I swam like there was no tomorrow. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the swimmers in lanes three and five pull ahead of me. This was my weakest stroke.

Overhead, I saw the blue and white flags that signaled the lane was ending. I counted one, two, three, four, five, six, then hit the wall right on cue.

My long legs coiled into my stomach and once again I pushed off, this time into my breaststroke. Two laps to go. I swallowed a gallon of water, spit it back into the pool, and gulped in mouthfuls of air. Like a frog, I moved my arms and legs in circles, then glided.

I regretted ever having doubts about this race. Slowly, the other swimmers fell behind, and I pulled ahead, trying to save my energy for freestyle. Below me, I saw a white tile line that crawled all of the way across the pool. Almost there. I took three more long strokes, gliding as much as possible. Then, smooth as butter, I touched the wall and turned to face the other end.

I bent my knees and straightened them, propelling forward. I took three kicks underwater and came to the surface, choking on chlorinated water. By now, I was completely out of breathe. I scooped water back, one arm after the other. Though limp and tired, my arms kept pulling me forward, and with a small burst of energy I kept going. I didn’t look back; I was afraid I would fall behind.

Over and over, my coach’s tips played in my head. Keep your head still. Don’t breathe on every stroke. Keep your fingers together.

I could read the label on the touch pad. So close.

With one final burst of energy, I pulled forward, my fingers inches from the wall. I took one last stroke and hit the touch pad. I heaved air into my lungs and looked to my left and right. The other swimmers were just starting to touch the wall. I won!

I pulled myself out of the water and congratulated my competition, trying to contain my excitement. After five years of swimming, I had finally won a race.

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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