United States Masters Swimming Short Course Spring Nationals Update: Becoming a National Champion

Lindsey and I after Friday's competition.
Not bad for one day of swimming!
Last week's post was a chance for me to talk about being recently reunited with a sport that used to not only occupy the majority of my free time, but also the majority of my mental energy. Now, a few days after the meet, I've had time to process the event and reflect on how it went.

After a late night arrival and less sleep than I'd have liked before a competition like this, we were up and at the pool just in time for my teammate's 400 yard individual medley race.* While reading up on the day's events and Thursday night's competition, I learned that a 95 year-old woman competed in and set a world record for the 90+ age group in one of the toughest events out there - the 1,000 yard freestyle. (Reminds me of these ladies!) One of the most incredible things about the meet itself was seeing men and women from every age group competing and just as excited to be a part of the event as some of the younger swimmers. Not to mention the fact that a number of women in the 35-39 and 40-44 age group had impressive and incredibly fast swims.

I had at least an hour to wait before the general meet warmup even started, and the waiting game is all part of the fun of meets this size. With over 2,000 swimmers competing over the course of the weekend, it was an incredible task for USMS officials and volunteers along with the GAC team to keep the meet running smoothing, but they did a phenomenal job. The competition pool was split into two separate pools with ten lanes, allowing heats to run simultaneously. Thanks to their estimated timetable, which was incredibly accurate, and the live streaming video of the meet, friends and family from near and far were able to follow along with every event.**

The last 25 yards of the 100fly...ouch! (L. Weiner)
My first two events, the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle, were definitely off events for me. Knowing they both require significant swimming endurance, I didn't have high expectations given the amount of swimming I'd done to prepare. It was hard to stomach being nearly 20 seconds off of my lifetime best in the 200 freestyle, but it wasn't a huge surprise. And I gave up my warmup time prior to the 200 free for a chance to meet one of my childhood heroes, seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard. She won three medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics at age 14, and given the fact that I was 12 at the time, she quickly became one of my idols. It was incredible to meet her in person.

Then, I finally got to swim the event I'd been waiting all day for, my best event, the 50 breaststroke. I hadn't officially raced it since I was much, much younger. (The 50 freestyle used to be the only 50 you could race competitively after age 10!) My goal was to best my time from the meet in January and hopefully finish in the top three in my age group. Imagine my surprise when looked up at the clock after touching the wall and saw a "1" next to my name. As of now, I'm the reigning USMS national champion in the women's 25-29 50 yard breaststroke! It's certainly not equivalent to making Olympic trials or winning another caliber national meet, and I still find myself looking for ways to minimize my new "national champion" status. I just happened to beat the swimmers at that pool at that time on that day. But given my goal for the weekend was to keep things in perspective and have fun, I'm trying my best to be proud of the achievement regardless.

Overall, USMS Short Course Nationals was a wonderful reintroduction to a community I haven't been a part of for a long time. Though I don't see myself swimming regularly until next year's meet, the sport will always have a special place in my heart.

Thanks for reading and for your support! USMS posted video recaps of Day 1, Day 2 (the day I swam), Day 3 and Day 4 of the event, and all of the final results here. USMS did an amazing job with the recaps; my favorite video is from Day 4 where meet referee Joel Black talks about what it takes to pull off a meet that size.

*When you register as swimmer with United States Masters Swimming, you're asked to register as part of an affiliated team. That team's three or four letter abbreviation then appears next to your name in meet programs. It can be a great source of pride, being part of a team and wearing that abbreviation on your cap and gear. Because both my friend and I didn't register as part of a team, nor did I spend any significant amount of time training with a team, we registered as "unattached." The four-letter abbreviation that appeared next to our names in the program, therefore, was "UNAT." Though Lindsey was my UNAT teammate, we were also "unattached" with almost 80 other swimmers at the meet - a pretty large "team!"

**One of my favorite parts of the day was getting a text from my mother after every event! The fact that she was able to follow along with all of the races and see me in the pool from over 500 miles away was fantastic.


rockgrrl said…
This is awesome news, and makes me think fondly about fencing again, sometimes certain sports and communities just stick with you don't they? Congratulations on the win, what an awesome return to your sport!
k8tlevy said…
 Thanks, Eileen! It was just a whole lot of fun and winning was a nice bonus. Do you think you'll ever get back into fencing? It was so nice to feel all the feelings I used to have during meets - all the jitters, the excitement, the energy - and to be in a familiar setting after such a long hiatus.
rockgrrl said…
If I moved I might get back into it competitively. I still keep up with the news and in touch with some in the community though.