It’s 4:00 a.m. and I am rudely awakened by my alarm. Usually, I try to pick an alarm that’s “happy” so that getting up before the birds won’t seem so bad, but over time, I begin to resent it. No matter the ringtone, I still struggle with feelings of disdain. Even though the only thing on my mind is turning off my phone or throwing it out the window, I finally put my feet on the floor and convince myself to get out of bed. It’s time for swim practice.
Having been involved in swim for most of my life, I feel that being a swimmer is who I am. It began when I was five years old and joined our community pool’s swim team. My parents, always encouraging me, love to remind me that I was always the first kid to jump into the water. I took to swimming right away and quickly moved up the swim team ranks becoming a real competitor -- not necessarily because I was fast, but because I was one of the few who could make it across the pool! Eventually, my lack of speed became an issue, especially when I joined a relay team whose three other members depended on me. I didn’t want to hold back my team, so I worked even harder. That’s when it all clicked for me -- at eight years old -- that in order to do better, I had to dedicate myself even more. Eventually my hard work paid off, and I made it to All-Stars, an important Northern Virginia regional meet. What had begun as a few days of swim practice a week at the local pool had evolved into a couple hours of practice early every morning and regional competition meets year round.
During the 2015 swim season, my ultimate goal was to qualify for a national meet in the spring. I missed my first opportunity to qualify at our mid-season championship meet, gaining time in every event. Following that disappointing performance, I had two months to prepare for the State Championship. So, I channeled that “never say no” eight-year old inside me and worked even harder. I rarely missed practice and improved my work ethic in and out of the pool. Once State Championships came around, I achieved more than I had hoped for by qualifying for the national meet in two events rather than one, breaking one conference and two school records, while representing my school in a way that I had always dreamed of as a kid.
It turns out, those early mornings crawling out of my warm bed and jumping, feet first, into the pool helped mold me into a person with discipline, determination and an appreciation for a strong mind and body. Though you might also find me playing soccer, managing my school’s Writing Center, or emceeing school-wide pep rallies, in the end, you will always find me in the pool...at 4 a.m.