Last weekend was our championship meet. In years past, we have always participated in the Tom Dolan Invitational – a meet hosted buy a competing local club. Often hailed as the fastest kids meet on the east coat. I’m not sure if that is actually true but if the kids say it enough time then it has meaning. This year our club decided they were hosting their own meet. Reasons were varied. TDI is an oversubscribed meet. Often hundreds of kids compete in each event. It is at a great facility (University of Maryland) but traffic getting there and parking can be a nightmare. It also had become next to impossible for the local kids to make finals. Kids come from all of the country to break records and make nationals cuts. On the flip side, it is a fast meet. Competition is fierce and kids swim well at the meet.
Grace was really disappointed not to be competing at Dolan. Many of her nemesis in the pool compete at the meet. She had trained hard and having just turned 14 it is her last opportunity to compete at the meet before hitting the big leagues of open age group swimming. She coined our meet Fauxland. She was disappointed our meet was at our home pool. It is truly an exceptional pool, the best in the county and we are lucky to train there. Parking and seating are a breeze. It is considered a fast people and our electronic scoreboard is great. In other words, it works and shows the swimmers name in a font large enough for parents to read. The downside? We swim there. Daily. A championship meet there was akin to wearing a formal gown to lunch at the school cafeteria. Grace had thrown in the towel. She said she wasn’t wearing her knee skin. She basically said “hey, I’m bringing my B game”.
She was also annoyed that the meet had bonus cuts. To attract out of town teams kids were allowed up to 4 swims if they made 3 or fewer cuts. She felt the meet was being dumbed down.
Me? I loved the meet. Sophie had three cuts and Sarah one. They were each allotted 4 swims. This meant we did not have to go to Christmas Champs. AKA the worst meet in the world. Last year I swore I would never go back (Should I take a shovel) but in the same breath admitted I would. But I didn’t have to! Grace was just going to have to suffer – the rest of us were thrilled. Did I mention the pool is ten minutes from home?
I had a long talk with Grace. I explained to her that while she might not be excited about the meet, her sisters were. As were many of her team mates. I also reminded her that in the coming years she was asking me to make some pretty big sacrifices, both from a time standpoint and financially. She needed to swim like she cared. The last few meets she has lost her spark. To say it was concerning me would be an understatement.
Day 1 Grace swam the first session (not in her knee skin). She swam really well. And made finals. The second session of the meet Sarah swam the one event she qualified for and Sophie two. Sophie got a best time on her 50 fly but just felt short of finals. She was a sad but handled it well. Sarah, who until three weeks ago, has never made a single qualifying time. She swam 50 breast and decided to show everyone there that she DESERVED to be there. Because she took off 2 solid seconds and moved her seeding up MANY places. I was on deck working the meet – my friends on deck were yelling something to me. I wasn’t quite sure what they said until I moved closer. And then I realized they were telling me Sarah was 10th and made finals. I can’t describe the emotions. I’m still speechless. Proud is an understatement. She also came very close to making the JO cut in her 50 fly (which she says is her worst stroke.
Grace and Sarah came back. Grace wore her knee skin. She was invested. Sarah was a nervous wreck. She went straight from the minor leagues to the World Series with one swim. The both did really well.
Grace and Sarah both swam day 2. Grace made finals in both her events. Sarah did not but got her JO cut in 100 breast. She now had two under her belt.
On day 3 all three girls swam. Grace once again made finals in both events. Sarah did not but decided to cut 11 seconds off her 200 breast (from three weeks ago) and she went ahead and got her 3rd JO cut. Sophie at 9 made finals in 100 fly.
Sophie came close to shutting the meet down at finals. I honestly thought she was going to throw up in the pool. She described the kid who swam 200 fly in the heat before her 100 fly as a large, hairy kid who looked 32. He had a thick 5 o’clock shadow. Fortunately she didn’t hurl and went on to swim her 100 fly for a best time.
Grace took a few risks, scratching 100 free in finals to focus on her backstroke one evening. She also rolled the dice on her 200 back and went out too fast. It resulted in a best time but not the time she wanted. She brought home 6 best times. Not too shabby for 6 events. She was looking for a sectional cut or two and fell short. But she is “this close” on 4 now. But she did what I asked. She swam like she cared. Even more importantly, she did what her coaches asked. She didn’t swim scared.
Junior Olympics will be a busy time for us. I like to complain but I love every moment of this. Sophie had her first taste of finals at 9. That is a big deal. Sarah put her stamp on breaststroke and through her efforts in the pool shouted to anyone listening “hey look at me, I can do this!”.
On the way out I spoke to Grace’s coach. He said Grace’s back. I said “her backstroke was awesome”. He corrected me. He said GRACE IS BACK! Grace is back. Swimming stole her from me again. I’m pleased beyond words. Swimming can have her. I now realize her bad attitude about the meet was a fear of failure. As soon as she realized she was doing well it was plain to see she had her head in the game. Her A game.
At the end of it all, I really can’t think of anything other way to describe the weekend other than holy crap. HOLY CRAP.