Here's a story from one of our young swimmers about her experience at the Flight 93 Memorial.....
On September 9, 2012, I had the chance to go and perform at Shanksville with the North Star kids as part of the Flight 93 Memorial Anniversary. We sang at the chapel and had to speak about our Flight 93 hero. My hero was Hilda Marcin, a 79 year old woman who was flying to California to live with her daughter. After we sang we went to the impact site where Flight 93 went down. It gave me the chills when I saw the memorial rock that marks the exact spot the plane went down. It really made me realize that the people on that plane were heroes and very brave. I was also able to view some of the belongings of the victims, this is an experience I will never forget. I feel honored I had this experience and hope I will be able to do it next year.
Here's a story from one of our senior swimmers...
I began the swimming season thinking, “This is going to be my year.” I was determined to make States as my final high school goal. My school’s swim team has many fast swimmers so getting on a relay would be difficult. However, I knew that I had to work hard and that I couldn’t let my past determine my future. I came to practice daily and participated in dry land. I could tell that I was getting stronger, and I believed that maybe States was a more reasonable goal then I had thought.
At the end of November, I was in a car accident. Extremely lucky not to be hurt, I no longer had a car to get to Deer Lakes, and I had to go to the chiropractor twice a week for more than four months. I felt awful. All of the hard work I had put in, all of the goals that I had made seemed as though they were slipping away. It would have been so easy to accept defeat and to give up -many times I wanted to. Once I read a quote that stuck with me, “A champion is someone who gets up, even when he can’t.” With that quote in mind and the quite voice inside my head saying, “Don’t quit, not yet,” I mustered up the physical and mental strength to keep going. Missing almost an entire month of training in December with Deer Lakes, I had a deep fear that I would run out of time before even getting a WPIAL cut. Throughout January, I held a 26.2 and a 26.3. The WPIAL cut was a 26.1. Every time I swam it, I was so close. I was getting tired of getting the same time every race. Maybe I wasn’t going to go any faster. Maybe that was as fast as I could go. The final meet of the season was at Mount Lebanon, the same pool that I had my very first high school meet freshmen year. It was a four lane pool so my coach was not going to swim me in the individual 50 and 100; I was only going to swim in the 200 and 400 free relays as lead. A goal I had tried to achieve all season had come down to one last shot, one last chance to get the time I needed. In swimming, my problem was never a physical one; rather, overcoming myself mentally was my greatest challenge. I am someone who knows exactly how I will swim a race, almost down to the second. The problem with that is that I am usually right. I am my own worst enemy. At this meet, though, I didn’t let any thoughts of doubt enter my mind regardless of the circumstances. I got on the block, knowing how strategically I was going to swim my race, “Swimmers, take your mark…” “…Come on Em, come on…” “BEEP!” I swam focusing on only three things: strong breakout, where I was going to breathe, and long finish. I hit the wall and immediately looked at the clock -25.8. Though I was thrilled, I had to regain my concentration for the 100. The cut was a 57.20. After the race I hit the wall and breathed a sigh of relief, I went a 57.19. I was going to WPIALS… Maybe States was still a possibility…
On the first day of WPIALS, one of the freshmen who was on the 200 free relay had been kicked off of it so my coach, right before my race, came up to me and said, “If you go a 25.2, I’m putting you on the relay.” I knew that the relay was my ticket to States because I would not make it in the individual event. I swam my race, hit the wall, and held my breath as I look at the clock with hope…25.3. What should have been a moment of triumph quickly turned into a moment of defeat. My dream of going to States had died. I went in the locker room away from all the athletes and cried. That was supposed to be my moment, that was my golden opportunity, and in my mind, I failed. The next day, before the bus left school to take us to Pitt for day two of WPIALS, one of the teachers at my school who used to coach Oakland came up to me and gave me an encouraging hug. She looked me in the eye and told me, “Today, swim for you.” All season, I had been trying to make States to prove to my coach, my mom, and my teammates that I was fast, not one race was ever for me. So, I gave the 100 all the energy I had left –a 55.4. In the course of one race, I dropped time in an event that I had had the same time in for two years. That was my moment of triumph.
Accepting that I was not going to States, I began to focus on the A Champs meet that was to take place at Pitt the following week. The 200 free was my first event. I absolutely DREADED the thought of swimming it because I had had a 2:09 for three years. I couldn’t help but think, “Why am I even swimming this?” Leading up to my race, Coach Becki kept telling me, “Don’t embarrass yourself.” …10 minutes later, “Don’t embarrass yourself.” …Right before my race, “Don’t embarrass yourself.” Without even realizing it, I had also been repeating those words in my head. Since I over think everything, this simple command became the only thing occupying my mind. I was in the first heat. The boy in front of me had just crushed everyone in his heat by over five seconds. Taking a deep breath, I said to myself, “I just have to do that. I can do that.” I swam the race faster and harder than I had ever swum it before and hit the wall several seconds before everyone else. Looking at the clock, I searched for my time, 2.02. My first thought was, “Wait, that can’t be right. A 2:02? No.” I walked over to an ecstatic Coach Becki and Coach Karen and with a smirk on my face as though I had defeated a set challenge I said (while trying to conceal a smile), “I didn’t embarrass myself.” I came back that night with low expectations. What are the odds I can drop anymore time? Ridding my mind of such thoughts, I swam my race with no set time in mind. I simply gave the race all that I had left in me. My time was a 2:01. I was shocked. When I got out of the pool, Coach Becki was yelling, “My girl!” and gave me a hug. For the first time in a long time, I felt like a champion. I knew that this would have never been possible without him because he believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.
No, I did not make states, but I know and believe that I can still go faster. In swimming, sometimes we make the mistake of swimming for everyone else. When you swim for everyone else, it becomes more difficult to believe in yourself. You are no longer swimming for you. Some coaches will always yell, and sometimes parents will make you feel that your best wasn’t good enough. My advice is to ignore it. Ignore everyone that makes your feel like you can’t do something, even when, as in my case, it’s your own thoughts. Swim with the mindset that you are the best even if you know that you are not. In swimming, we constantly set goals for ourselves, and we constantly try to improve, and sometimes that is the best we can do. You will not always have a great race, but you can’t give up on yourself. I swam the 100 over 26 times with no improvement. I waited for three years to drop time in that event. I just never gave up.