The water is crystal blue, 4ft deep and the waves are bouncing. Heads down, eyes focused, minds counting strokes. Crowds cheering, little kids watching with wide eyes, parents with towels and hats ready, coaches and scouts with timers and scorecards. Smell the chemicals in the water and feel alive. Six lanes. The six swimmers that know this is our last chance of the summer to qualify. It’s an 800m. Breathe. Left arm, right arm, and left arm. Breathe. Left arm, right arm, and right arm. Breathe. I can see it now. If I counted right 8 strokes and I’m there. I’ll have to flip then power off the wall to take the lead. It’s an 800m. The longest distance they’ll let anybody do, I live for it. Muscles are tired and lungs are burning. Three strokes breath. Keep your head down. Last flip, headed home. The sprint. Time to make it count. I’ve got the lead now but they’re closing in fast. Feet kick faster, strokes quicken and breathes get held longer. Congrats are made and arms are numb. Hard work, training, and patience wins. Parents drag champions out of pools that think one more lap is needed or a cool down 12 minute tread is best. Followed by the traditional day’s end dive off the board. Smile, I qualified. I can do it again next weekend.
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