The stage is set…

Grace swam this past weekend at the University of Maryland pool.  It is her first trials and finals meet as a newly minted 15 and up.  She has three qualifying times for the Tom Dolan Invitational next weekend – Turkey Claus is considered the companion meet for TDI, they can’t swim any events at TC that they have a TDI qualifying time in.

It’s almost impossible to make finals at TDI, kids come from all over the country to compete in this meet. It is often described as the fastest age group meet in the country.  When you look at the top seeds and where they are coming from it is clear to see people who come to this meet mean business.  The kids who swim TC though are hopeful they will make finals.  Grace was slightly optimistic.  Sort of.  Truth be told, we didn’t plan to be there for finals.

She swam 500 free and was .17 off her seed time.  She wasn’t happy with the swim.  On the way home she apologized to me – she said she felt as though she were wasting all of my time and money.  I asked her if she was happy swimming. She said she was and I assured her that I was too.  I also realized that “she is happy” really just means “we are coping”.

Friday she swam 200 free and it was ugly.  Her 100 fly was okay.  I was timing and she actually came and talked to me.. this is a new development.  She even let me hug her and kiss her on the head.  It was a blessing she didn’t make finals.  We were tired and she was developing a nice cough and head cold.

Saturday she didn’t swim the meet – she had a high school meet and she had the qualifying times two of the events so breaststroke was the only option an easy pass.  She swam her high school meet, got first in her races with a half hearted attempted and a very congested head.  By Saturday night she was exhausted.  For the first time ever, we contemplated skipping the Sunday sessions in favor of getting some rest.  Warm ups were at 6 AM and we had an hour commute to the pool.  Rather than decide Saturday night, we went to bed early, setting the alarms and got some much needed sleep.

In the end, she opted to go to the meet.  She swam 200 IM (right at her seed) and 100 free (off by about half a second).  She was seeded 22nd for finals in 100 free and we were confident we had the evening off.

I took Grace to lunch and since the meet was officially over and she decided to splurge and have a huge plate of nachos, complete with guacamole and sour cream.  During our conversation she mentioned that the pool – University of Maryland – was known for being a fast pool and that everyone seems to get best times at the pool.  Except her.  I had already noticed that, at the meet in the summer.  Sarah had the worst meet of her life there and Sophie just did ok at the pool.  It’s a big stage, the biggest they swim in.  My kids don’t get intimidated or nervous swimming in big events, this pool just seemed cursed.

As Grace was polishing off her final chip we received a message from her coach.  Grace had made finals in 100 free, clearly many kids had decided to take their best times and call it a day.  I won’t lie, we both made the “really?” face.  And then I took her home for a nap.

You may have already guessed where this very long tale goes but after four days of mediocre swimming, a terrible cold, a strong desire for this meet to just end, a pile of laundry, a house not decorated for the holidays and one of the worst meals ever before finals Grace went back to that pool and dropped time in 100 free for the first time in a YEAR.  She dropped .23 which at her age and speed is monumental.  Grace went to bed last night tired, sick and the happiest I have seen her in a long time.  “We are happy” now has new meaning.  It means “we are ready”.  If it takes another year we are ready.  It’s a rough age group.  It’s all about hope.

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