Our girls won the 5A (large school) State Championship swim and dive meet in record-breaking fashion, scoring 502 points in the first 500+ team effort ever. They also set a state record in the 200 free relay, racing jaw-dropping splits that left us coaches speechless. I hit the watch on our last swimmer and could only turn to the other coaches to show them, mouth agape. Our late-night (until 2 am) coaching strategy meeting and the emotional outpouring we saw from our swimmers and divers kept us teetering from calm and purposeful (in front of the team) to hyped-up, stressed out, and tearful in our small huddle on the side of the pool.
Impossible to watch the uplifted faces of our athletes when they realized their victory and not get choked up -- the girls were leaping into the air, embracing, taking photos, and weeping by turns. I hugged three normally stoic swimmers as they staggered around the deck, crying into their chlorinated, wrinkly hands. Teenagers have been through hell the past two years, and I can only imagine the release they felt at swimming a full State meet for the first time since the pandemic started, able to see friends, teammates and family and share their joy with one other.
I mean, the pandemic's been hell on everyone, but the young people have had to shoulder heavy loads that are disproportionate to their short experience and limited perspectives. Now, only ten days after our glorious win, the teenagers have to face alarming headlines about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Putin's mad fallacy that going to DEFCON status will advance anything positive.
For two glorious days we could exist in a bubble of sport, a "good" bubble that we chose, and watch the girls work hard and play hard in the most uplifting way. True, I came down to earth and back to my other four jobs with a jolt, wading through pages of emails and creating multi-page to-do lists of tasks that were forgotten in the weeks leading up to State, but it was absolutely worth it. Even though I'm now obsessively busy with my "replacement" work, I can't help but wonder what our journey will look like next year.