2020 was different from any other year, and for many water sports, our practices were halted and pools closed.
One thing that I never thought I’d have to give up was my senior year high school swim season. I remember last year’s county championships like it was yesterday. The joy I had on the bus ride with my teammates to the pool, as well as the exhilaration of racing hundreds of other swimmers from our school district.
I remember leaving the meet dissatisfied with my times, and told myself that next year, I would finish senior year strong.
This would be my 14th year swimming and my fourth year swimming in high school. I had also swam for four years on the summer swim team, and six years competitively. I expected my senior year to be like a highlight reel, and to be honored as a long time swimmer.
I considered swimming in college for a bit, but chose to go to a school that was the best academic fit for me. I had set a personal goal for myself: if I could swim under 30 seconds for a 50 yard backstroke, I could quit competitive swimming.
I thought senior year would be my year.
The state of Washington where I live has one of the most intense COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, almost all of our high school sports have been canceled. Some sports, including swimming, are allowed to offer athletes dryland conditioning workouts in groups of six. But in order to take part, you need to sign forms stating that no matter what happens to you, the school district is not held liable. Because of this, and the fact that we wouldn’t be allowed in the pool, I decided not to take part in the high school swim team this year.
It took awhile for me to realize that this was my new normal. That I’d never get to be highlighted at the city pool during senior night. That I would never get a chance to swim in the senior relay. All these “lasts” with a team of 80+ girls that I had gotten to know well were up in the air. However, the memories that I have made over the past 14 years are invaluable and will never be saddened by one year of loss. The friendships that I have made and the life lessons that I have learned with stick with me.
Swimming has always been an integral part of my life, whether it served as a stress reliever or a form of competition and validation. I’ve loved my experience in the water, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I look forward to discovering new ways to apply the lessons I learned, whether it’s applied at school or as I challenge myself physically. Every swimmer knows that they’ll carry their pool skills into other parts of their lives.
This isn’t a goodbye to the water, it’s simply a new chapter.