Sunday, February 21, 2016

Thoughts on being a swammer

This past weekend, I drove down to Austin to watch my high school swim team compete in the Texas high school state championship.  I graduated from high school over a decade ago now, and some of the swimmers that competed on Saturday were 6&under guppies that I coached in summer league back in college.  I hadn't been to a high school meet in ages - the last meet I attended was probably my sister's senior year in high school, nearly a decade ago.  But this year, I decided to drive to Austin and go to the state meet.  And I'm so glad I did.

{happy reunion!}

There were a few things that prompted me to decide to go.  First, I hadn't seen my high school coach (whom I greatly admire) in far too long.  Second, a sweet friend of mine was going to the meet too and a trip to Austin was a good excuse to watch up with her.  Third, Steve is still in study mode for the bar, so I had the day to myself anyway.  And lastly, this new generation of swimmers from our high school are crazy-fast, and I wanted to cheer them on myself, in person.  So I woke up on Saturday morning, had breakfast, and drove down to Austin for the day.

I had a delicious lunch with my friend at one of my favorite Austin restaurants on the lake - the three hour drive was worth it for that alone.  After plenty of queso and catching up, we headed to the pool to watch the meet.

{lunch at Hula Hut!}

Walking into the pool itself was emotional overload for me.  Between high school and college, I swam countless races in that water.  Some of my brightest and most meaningful swimming memories were made in that pool.  Countless photos with teammates were taken and sideline celebrations were had on that deck.  But all of that was a decade ago.

{the beautiful UT pool}

Now, the races belong to this new generation of Cinco swimmers, the generation that shattered old team records (and state ones!) and won gold medals and proudly posed on the podium in their letter jackets while we cheered on from the stands.  I still remember so clearly the feelings that those swimmers felt - hearing the crowd roar as a neck-and-neck finish approached, the thrill of a best time, the school pride standing on the podium awaiting the medal to be placed around your neck.  Years later, I remember.  

I remember when we went to State for the first time.  I remember our celebration when we won Districts for the first time, and when we sent an even bigger group to state my senior year.  I remember the start of what we all hoped would become an inevitable Cinco dynasty one day.  And now, that is what Cinco is.  And I am so incredibly proud to have been a part of it.

{celebrating our District victory in 2004}

And so, at the state meet, my heart leapt every time a Cinco swimmer was behind the blocks.  And every time I saw a CRHS shirt.  And every time I saw Cinco's team score listed on the scoreboard.  And especially when the Cinco boys took the first ever state record on behalf of the school in the 200 free relay.  (And yes, I cried happy tears!  I've always been a crier...)  And my heart nearly burst when I nearly bowled over hugged our coach and reminisced for a few minutes with old friends as we waited for more amazing swims from the Cinco kids.

{summer league coaching friends and swammers with our inspiration, Coach P.}

Back in college, we Cinco swimming alumni made it a tradition to visit our coach over every holiday break.  I would pick up donuts for the high schoolers, hand them out after morning practice was done, and sit on the sideline talking to Coach and whichever other alumni showed up that day about everything going on in our lives.  Once I moved away for law school, that stopped for me but I like to think that the younger alumni still carry on this tradition.  And that all of us alumni are part of one big Cinco swimming family, headed by our incredible Coach P. and connected forever by those countless hours spent together in the pool.  

Being at that state meet was like coming home.  Not like stepping back in time and wanting to be on the pool deck in a fast suit again, but more of celebrating the legacy of our school and rallying behind those in the water wearing the maroon caps as they swam their hearts out.  I know that high school athletics are so far behind me, but the memories made and the friendships forged will continue on forever.  And I'd like to think the team legacy will also carry on, one swimmer/swammer generation at a time.

  {Coach P. and me <3}

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