A Small Duck In A Big Pool
One Day Earlier:
“Yes,” I said. “This is going to be great! We will win for sure.” In the 3 years I had been doing this, I had never seen the cards so lined up toward us. We were practically handed a win!
“I know!” Bridget exclaimed, suddenly appearing over my shoulder. “This is going to be the best one ever!”
“I’m so excited!” Julia said happily,
“Breaststroke?” Daniya asked in disbelief. About her stroke, or the paper, I’m not really sure, but I’m guessing a bit of both. “HECK YEAH!”
“What are you guys talking about asked Clara, breaking into the little half circle we had formed around this somehow holy document. “Oh.” Her face fell, and was an odd contrast to all of our beaming faces. “At least I’m with Sydney,” she said, but we could all tell that she really wished she was with us. After another moment of staring at the sheet, almost like she was willing for the names to switch, she turned and walked into the locker room.
We all stared at it for another minute or so, discussing what we would do, and the way we would do it, before heading off into the locker room ourselves,
“I hope they have ducks,” I said to Daniya as we picked up our bags.
“Me, too. It just isn’t the same without them,” She responded.
“I wonder what ducks they will have tomorrow?” I asked Daniya, but also myself. “Hopefully we all get the ones we want. . .” I start to say, but then stop myself. After all, there would be no reason for us to not get ducks. Right?
I was around nine years old when this particular event happened. On my swim team, I had five really close friends of mine: Julia, Daniya, Bridget, Clara, and Sydney, all ranging from ages eight (Bridget) to ten (Julia, Clara, and Daniya). We all swam at the John F. Kennedy pool in Bridgeport, and our team was called the Park City Wolfpack.
Today, was a very important day for the six of us. It was the Regionals day. Regionals is a meet that you can only qualify into, and is made up of different teams from around where you are. Kids their are usually trying to qualify for Age Groups, which is the next highest meet after Regionals. But, that wasn’t the most exciting part. That, was that we got to swim together in a relay.
Usually our races were all individual. But, on some occasions (like today) we were able race together, in a relay. Kind of like a Track and Field relay, but instead of passing a baton, you are jumping off a block three feet in the air.
Yet, even with a great opportunity like this, there was still a problem. Relay’s could only consist of four people, no more, no less, and there were six of us. Four lucky people got to be on the A team relay, and the other two unlucky ones had to go onto the B team with two other younger (and, yes, slower) kids.
The A team relay for today was like this: Julia would get into the water first, and start off with backstroke, and then Bridget would jump off the block when Julia touches the wall and start sprinting butterfly, and, after, it was Daniya’s turn to leap off the block and do a beautiful, but fast, breaststroke, and finally, it was my turn to do a fifty freestyle to finish the fun. We had our game plan, and were destined to destroy and dominate our heat and get the ducks. We had practiced and trained and worked hard, and now it was our Time to Shine. We all had done a great job in our races, and were getting pumped and ready for our relay.
On the other hand, Clara and Sydney were struggling with their relay positions. They had been down all day, and hadn’t done a great job in their races. But more importantly, they were Left Out. They weren’t included in this team of ours (which I guess I would be, too if I was in their position) and had gone to speak to our coach, Alan, about twenty minutes before the race began.
While they were talking, we were deciding. We had all picked out ducks, and I had my eye on a duck that I really wanted; an animal duck of some sort, and though it was the price of pennies, to me, that duck was worth millions.
This was interrupted by Coach Alan, calling us over for what we thought was a normal pep talk.
Coach Alan explained to us that Sydney and Clara thought that the relay teams were too “unfair” and that he needed to make some switches.
“Marissa,” he said suddenly. “Why don’t I switch you and Sydney? That way you can swim butterfly for the B team, after all, that is their weakest leg, and you did a great job in butterfly today. . .”
He kept on talking but I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what he was saying to me. He was giving my spot away like it meant nothing to me. And now, I was stuck on the other team in some sort of attempt to have the two teams not be so distant, but I knew that this was not going to work. Not that I didn’t have any hope or faith, but because the teams were completely unfair. My anger was like a beacon, and everyone knew I was furious.
Coach Matt was saying something about “other chances” and how “it will be fine,” but he didn’t get it. It was so far from “fine” that I don’t even have a word to call it.
Now that I was in Sydney’s position, I could see why she was upset, but what I didn’t see, was how that meant that she got to be in my position. And, that certainly does not help her case, because her crying and asking to be switched was not ok in my world. It was not ok that she was barging onto my team. Not “ok” at all.
It was time for us to go up, and we did, but with heavy hearts (at least for me). We were up their early, and had to wait for a few minutes, while my dread kept growing and growing. I really didn’t want to be in this relay. I wanted to swim and win! Not to swim and lose, and have to deal with everyone else winning and smiling, and celebrating, which is what I should have been doing, too, but I wasn’t going to be doing that. I was going to be the one who had to put on the brave face, and pretend to be excited for them, instead of jealous of them. Suddenly, the race was about to begin. The other girls had gotten out of the water, and the announcer was about to begin.
“Racer’s, in the water,” the announcer boomed. He waited for a little while, to let the swimmers get in the water and get ready. “Take your mark. . .”
“BEEP,” the button was pushed, and the girls were off.
Katie tried to keep up with Julia, but it wasn’t going to happen. Julia dominated the fifty back, leaving everyone, including us, trailing behind in the dust.
“Go, go, go,” we all shouted, cheering Katie on, but mostly telling ourselves.
Julia tapped the wall with a satisfied grin, as Daniya dove in. Clara anxiously waited on the block, hoping for time to pass faster. When Katie finally touched the wall, Clara dove in with, to this day, the fastest dive I have ever seen her do. Clara, tried, she really did, but Daniya had half a pool’s length on her, and Clara jumped in
“Go, Clara, go!” I yelled. We may not win this, but I would still cheer for Clara, and I hoped she would do the same for me. “Come on, Clara. You got this! Go, go, go! CL-A-RA, CL-A-RA, CL-A-RA!” We all kept cheering with desperate attempts to try and win. Bridget dove in, and Clara still had a ways to go. Clara swam her heart out, but she just couldn’t catch up that distance.
Now, it was my turn. I dove in, giving it my all and doing my best butterfly, but we were still too far behind. I couldn’t catch up the distance. I touched the wall, and our freestyler dove in.
“Go, go, go!” Clara and me yelled, but we could already tell they won.
We saw them touch the wall, and even though we knew it was coming, it was still a stab in our hearts. We finished, with an ok time, but the A team finished with the better time, and got the ducks.
When I saw the duck Sydney had chosen, my mouth dropped and touched the floor.
“No way.” I whispered. “She didn’t take that.”
In her hands was MY DUCK! The duck that I should have won and deserved. And I deserved that duck way more than she did. I wanted that duck. That duck was priceless to me.
And she knew it, too.
And that duck, to her, was nothing. Just another piece of junk thrown in a trophy case probably. But that duck, wasn’t won with hard work, or teamwork, in her case. It was won with tears.
A few Years Later:
Now, at my mature age of thirteen (ha, ha) and my swim team friends all around the same age, these stories don’t anger us as much, for the most part. I am still very close with all of them, except for Sydney, but not for the reasons you would think. She is the only one of to have switched onto another team. We exchange awkward “Hi’s,” and “Hello’s,” at meets (which is definitely Bridget’s fault, because she has never forgiven her for leaving), and that’s about it.
On our part, Julia, Bridget, Clara, Daniya, and I are left, now. We have grown closer with three new swimmers, Dani, D’Andre, and Olivia, and swim at the University of Bridgeport, now, with a new coach named Coach John, and our other coach, Coach Doc.
We have been through a lot, but we have stuck together like Nutella and Peanut Butter. Though this relay was a rough day for some of us, it has not come between any of our relationships. We are still holding strong as Best Friend’s, and I can speak for all of us, and say that we all hope it stays that way.
But. I am still missing that duck from that one relay, which I should have been in. And though I have searched for it at every meet I go to, I have yet to find it.