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The Fight for the Fast Lane

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My freshman year, someone told me that asthma and the sport of swimming should not mix. After my first season, I was pretty sure they were right.

I suffered through week after week, attack after attack, too proud to quit, but too tired to keep going. There were too many people to let down, and too many expectations to live up to for me to give up.

So I stuck with it. A teammate became my mentor, talking me calmly through each lung-busting attack, talking me gently back into the water, just one more time. I became a backstroker, where you have pretty much unlimited opportunity to breathe. I was pathetic, but I wasn't giving up just yet.

The season ended, and with the close came a new determination. There were six other girls on our team suffering from the same affliction, and I didn't see them whining. So I changed.

I swam every chance I could get, working not only on lung capacity but on stroke mechanics, turns, starts, and muscle. When I couldn't get to a pool I ran till my lungs burst, legs burning.

Sophomore season rolled around. I got in the pool the first meet expecting more of myself, while everyone else was wondering what I was still doing there. The 100 yard backstroke, my best race, came up, and I gave it everything I had. On the start, I remembered what I'd practiced, my body straight as an arrow as I streamlined through the water. In the middle, I moved with perfect rotation and strong, certain pulls. On the turn, I flipped over at the exact right time, pushing off the wall with the force I could never find in me before. This went on for four lengths, air struggling through my gasping lips as my mind told me I'd be okay. After all, I had more than coaches to prove wrong. I slammed into the wall with a perfect finish, looking at the lanes around me.

I was suddenly very confused. There was no one else at the wall. I heard cheers from my team and the jaw-dropped look on my coach's face, and spun around in the pool to see five other girls still swimming. My eyes darted to the time board.

Seven seconds faster than my end of season time last year, something nearly unheard of in the sport of swimming. And my first first place ever.

I've swam varsity ever since.

Every day I struggle, every length I gasp, every turn I ask myself why. But to see a better time, to win another race, and to take four medals at your league meet when no one expected you to even qualify, you know the struggle's worth it.




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Barnbrat14 said...
Aug. 12, 2008 at 12:36 am:
I was published for the first time on teenink/raw this week. So I was curious to read the other winning submissions. I loved your article, I found it clever, captivating and very well written.
 
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