September 11, 2014
The very last week in August 2014 I was fortunate to be able to compete for Team USA at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Maui, Hawaii. I first would like to acknowledge the obvious truth that I could not have had this experience without the support of my parents and everyone at BCST, especially my coach, Andy Pym.
As a team we spent 8 days in Maui. Meeting and bonding with 45 of the best young swimmers in this country was unbelievable and I am so thankful for all the friendships I made. No matter how anyone swam, the relationships we developed cannot be taken away and were almost more fulfilling than any swim.
Competing with an American flag on your cap is an indescribable experience. Behind the scenes the team goes over how much it truly means to represent your country, especially our great country (which just happens to be the best in the world at swimming J). It did not matter how tired, sick, or over-tapered anyone was; being part of that team simply makes you swim fast. I personally felt more inspired than I ever had before. We were shown highlight videos from past international competitions the USA Swimming National Team competed in, ranging from the 1980s all the way through 2013. Just those videos evoked emotions in me I didn’t know I had. Additionally, Rebecca Soni and Aaron Peirsol tagged along with the junior team to provide some guidance and even more inspiration for us. They talked to us as a group about what it means to be on Team USA and how to prepare for and handle meets mentally. I personally had the opportunity to have a long conversation with Rebecca about mentally dealing with stress before a race.
The environment was charged with a tremendous energy. By the end of the meet my voice was gone from cheering so loud. No heat with an athlete from Team USA went unnoticed. We had a presence. I felt each team’s eyes on me and everyone else as we walked around in our USA gear. With our unmatched team spirit, there was a sense that everyone wanted to be us, to be a part of our team. The excitement of the meet in and of itself was so exhilarating that when it ended I experienced a bit of “Post Pan Pac” depression when I came home.
We all cheered for each USA Team member and that did wonders for how each of us swam. It provided a sense of excitement and support when you were about to enter the water. Personally, when I walked out for my 200 IM final and passed the line of my teammates all screaming, giving high fives, and chanting “USA” I could not stop smiling. That is the happiest I have been before a race and it got me so excited to swim, even though it was the very last day of an extremely long season. I wanted to be there, and to swim for my country.
Besides the swimming, we were all lucky enough to be able to enjoy beautiful Maui, especially on the last day before we left. We enjoyed some kayaking and snorkeling, and did a lot of turtle chasing J. Two of my friends and I even got to break away with Aaron Peirsol and Rebecca Soni during the snorkeling and take some pictures and swim through an underwater coral cove.
Overall, the knowledge I acquired about the sport, the friendships I made, and the memories I now have all contributed to making this trip the best experience of my life.