Beating the pressure of CIF

By Alex Edel

It was almost 10:30 a.m. on May 13, and the fog started to rise, the bright blue color of the pool becoming clear. High school students from all over Los Angeles County arrived in sweat suits and Uggs. Tension filled the air. This was going to be a day of greatness, a day of records, a day never to be forgotten. This was Division 1 CIF.

Holding a small, square, pink ticket carefully in my hand, I made my way down to the pool deck, stepping over pebbles holding my cap and goggles tightly. As I stood in line to enter the pool, I looked down onto the deck. Maddy Sprung-Keyser ’09 stood in line behind me and said what was echoing in my mind: “The pool looks a lot longer than 25 yards.”

Never has a pool looked as formidable or scary as it did then. I stepped down the bleachers, dropped my towel and scanned the crowd. The pool was filling quickly with some of the fastest swimmers in California. The nerves continued to rise up in my chest. Followed by four other Harvard-Westlake swimmers I found a lane and jumped in.

The cold surrounded me, and I started swimming. The nerves suddenly vanished. I was there to swim the races that I had trained hard for, to race like I had done a hundred times before, and nothing could change that.

After warm up I went with my teammates to the locker room to squeeze my body into a $360 Blue Seventy suit. The material felt like thin wetsuit against my skin, squeezing my lingering apprehensions into my body.

First event was the girls’ 200 medley relay; Maddy Sprung-Keyser ’09 swam the backstroke leg, I swam the breaststroke, Shan Shan Heh ’11 swam breaststroke, and Katrina Zanberg ’10 swam free. The timing of each swim was perfect and we ended up getting seventh place, ensuring a place in the finals heat on Friday.

My next event was the 200 individual medley. As I was standing behind my racing block before my race, I watched the last heat of the boys’ 200 freestyle. Tom Shields, who is somewhat of a celebrity in high school swimming, was out in front. His strokes were long, his flip turns impeccable and his kick consistent. When he finished, the crowd rose to their feet, cheering and clapping. The announcer informed the crowd that a new national high school record had been set. This was a day for records.

Ten minutes later I dove into the water. I did not set any records, but went my best time, a personal record, earning a spot in the finals.

Maybe it was the new suit, maybe it was the adrenaline, but mostly I think it was the training. I spend at least two hours a day, six days a week in the pool, altering my strokes, perfecting my starts and turns, and building up endurance.

The rest of the meet continued to be great for me and the rest of the team. James McNamara ’10 went a best time of 50.38, breaking a school record that was set in 1967. He then broke his own record Friday with a time of 49.75 and placed third.

Michael Hartwick ’09 swam the 50 and 100 yard free, placing 14th and sixth respectively. Maddy Sprung-Keyser finished her 100 yard backstroke, clinching 13th place.

Danny Fujinaka ’10, Max Eliot ’09, McNamera and Hartwick all swam in both the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay, placing 12th and fourth respectively.

Competing at CIF was nerve racking, exciting, fulfilling, and overall one of the best experiences of my swimming career.

Sharing a lane with the fastest swimmers in California, cheering for your friends as they race, and feeling the importance of representing Harvard-Westlake, makes all the long hours of training and work worth it.