The Pineapple Relay
It was the last relay, the pineapple relay. Eight people, 16 lengths, and an angry pool of arctic water. To some people, winning a pineapple isn’t all that important, but for the eight of us, it was our trophy.
At the Cardinal Invitational, we met our usual rivals who were thirsty to steal a victory from us. The lineup was the best we had, with the strongest people near the end, holding off the enemy. We were assigned the seventh of eight lanes, in the second heat so outside smoking the competition was a priority. Before the whistle blew, we jeered to intimidate the other teams who stared with wide eyes. I looked at my teammates’ faces as we piled our hands in a circle for our last huddle together, “On the count of 3, team… 1,2,3…TEAM!” as we all pushed an invisible plunger beneath our hands, which started the game.
The first whistle blew as our lead off shuffled onto the sandpapered block. We called her name for reassurance, but also to let her know we needed a strong lead in the beginning. The sound of hearts beating vibrated the blocks as the spectators hushed their neighbors.
“Swimmers, take your marks…” and once the beep sounded, the pool exploded as eight lead off torpedoes split the water. My voice went hoarse before the second swimmer could enter the water, but I continued to scratch my vocal chords as I forced air through my voice box.
I threw my arms up and shook my legs to guide and prepare my muscles for an agonizing 26.04 seconds. The 4th swimmer approached her flip turn, and I was ready to do damage. Adrenalin involuntarily scarred my insides as it dispersed through each fiber in my body. Hyperventilation left me light headed after forcing respiration to stock my body with oxygen, and eliminate carbon dioxide. Each second was an hour, and I remembered all the people that doubted our team. I was swimming in spite of all the people who told me my team was going to fail. I remembered how the sarcasm in their voice blew dust in my eyes with a snickering “Good Luck”. Most of all, I remembered all the teams that thought it would be easy to steal a victory from us this year, which excited me even more. Not today.
My hands followed the swimmer, and once she burned the water to the wall, my feet sprang from the sandpaper. I sliced the water like a paper-thin razor with minimal splash and the desire to master the rest of my competition in a matter of 50 yards. With my oxygen supply running low, I approached the flip turn. With a quick breath, my abdominal muscles flung my legs over to flip turn, and the result was a massive crater in the wall as the tiles sifted to the bottom of the pool. My arms screamed with exhaustion, and webs of sticky lactic acid stiffened my legs. With ten yards to go, I buried my head, dug deeper, and juiced my body for any remaining energy. A tap of my fingertips to the wall, the 6th swimmer was repeating the same excruciating task I did.
I Crawled out of the sea breathless and painfully mustered up any cheers possible to encourage the team. Finally, our last swimmer and anchor was ready to finish the job for a victory. There was no room for error. There was no room for a poorly executed flip turn. And there was certainly no room for doubt. Remembering the chants to break us down, we jacked our anchor up by cheering to a hypnotic beat of, “You can do it, you can do it, you can do it…”
Molly was racing her last length of the pool, and we were bent over the lane pulling her to the wall with our cheers. With her arm outstretched and a powerful kick, lane 7 won the pineapple, leaving the thirsting teams parched again. Our relay embraced each other as chills rippled down our skin.
Ultimately, it wasn’t about winning; it was about proving all the doubtful people wrong. We needed to be positive and push each other to come out victorious, and that we did. We set a new goal that day, which will be to win State Championships.