CHLORINE CHRONICLES: First high-school swim meet brings ankle injury, but also anticipation for season to come

(Photo by Wendi Zales)
The swim team sits on Rio Americano’s bleachers.
Back row: Sophomore Joe Zales, coach Brian Nabeta and freshman Chris Wilson. Front row: sophomores Heidi Johnson and Emily Hayes, freshman Rebecca Waterson, junior Amalie Fackenthal and freshmen Aaron Graves and Jackson Crawford.

Freshman Rebecca Waterson lives at school and the pool. You will find her catching a nap in the car on the way to practice, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool for hours every day, being yelled at to go to bed because she has to be up in four hours for morning practice or grabbing a snack in the kitchen. Waterson writes the biweekly blog “Chlorine Chronicles” on her life as a competitive swimmer training with the Davis Arden Racing Team (DART).

The minute hand on the clock in the Latin classroom ticked ever closer to 2:40 p.m. The background sounds of “Spy Kids 2” faded. I could barely concentrate on the movie, I was too excited on what I would be doing in 3, 2, 1. . .

“I’ve got to go, Ms. B. I’ll see you tomorrow!” I said as I grabbed my binder and rushed out the door. Quickly walking down the stairs and over to the freshman quad, I seized my school backpack and my swim bag and ran out to the parking lot where my mom was waiting.

We drove in silence to Rio Americano High School. March 21: my first high-school meet. I was too nervous to talk. Just before we reached the school, my mom explained one last time how the meet would work.

“Technically this is a dual meet between Rio Americano and Mira Loma high schools, but you are  allowed to participate in the meet as an exhibition team. You’ll be swimming with the JV girls,” she said. But I was only half listening.

The street was clogged with cars picking up kids from school. My mom looked around frantically, first at the clock, then at the cars around her. I was supposed to be at the pool by 3 p.m., and it was 2:57. She pushed me out of the car, and told me to ask someone where the pool was.

I looked around me in the crowded parking lot of Rio. There were so many people, it was overwhelming! There were speakers blaring with football announcements, music playing and lots of high schoolers talking loudly and walking slow.

I finally saw Mrs. Zales, mother of fellow swimmer Joe, in the midst of the crowd and gratefully rushed towards her. She ushered me toward the pool as she went back to help my mom unload the car.

I turned the corner, and there the pool was! I saw two of my DART friends first, Tina and Lizzie, both Rio students.

(Photo by Wendi Zales)
Coach Brian Nabeta oversees warm-up at Rio Americano High School.

“Hi, Becca!” said Tina.

“Is it just you, Joe and Amalie today?” asked Lizzie.

“Actually, no! We have five more kids swimming, so we have enough for relays,” I replied.

The girls looked flabbergasted that the SCDS team had somehow come up with eight people to swim. This was the first time SCDS had a boys’ relay team!

Catching sight of my coach, Brian Nabeta, I pushed through the crowd to go sit on the bleachers with him.

As I sat there, I looked around at the pool area and the people. I recognized almost a third of the Rio team since many also swam for DART. They were all milling around, waiting for warm-ups to start. Some checked papers taped to a wall, which I assumed were heat and lane assignments, while others were looking at the wall of pool records.

I could just make out the numbers and names from where I was seated, and I wasn’t too surprised to see most records had been set by swimmers from DART.

Rio warmed up first, and the pure number of Rio swimmers in the pool was astounding to me. All eight lanes were filled with six or seven people.

While Rio was warming up, the girls who also swam for DART kept waving, smiling and making funny faces at us. Amalie and I smiled and waved back, while Jackson Crawford, Chris Wilson, and Aaron Graves sat talking about which legs they would do in the relays, and Emily Hayes, Heidi Johnson, and Joe made small talk.

Finally the Rio kids got out of the water, and the pool was open to SCDS and Mira Loma. Our eight swimmers hopped into two lanes: Jackson, Aaron, Chris, Emily, and Heidi in one, Amalie, Joe, and I in the other. Brian gave Amalie, Joe, and me a warm-up, then focused on the other swimmers.

Energy was coursing through me. The water felt smooth and crisp, and my strokes were long and powerful.

“This is going to be a good meet,” I thought as I went into a flip turn.

Too late I realized I was much too close to the wall, and my heels slammed against the gutter. I stayed in that position for what felt like an eternity. Everything was red, and I could feel the jarring shock of the impact rush up my legs. It was when Amalie accidentally flipped on me that I painfully pushed off the wall.

(Photo by Wendi Zales)
Freshman Rebecca Waterson and sophomore Joe Zales talk to coach Brian Nabeta after their races.

At the shallow end of the pool, I inspected the damage. So far my heels were rapidly turning the shade of ripe strawberries, and I couldn’t flex my foot.

“I can totally still swim!” I laughed to myself. This would be one interesting meet. I was grateful now that I hadn’t signed up for any freestyle events, and the 200 free relay was next to last. I was scared of hitting my heels again.

Before getting out of the pool, I once again looked at my heels. An odd shade of purple, turquoise and blue was setting in. Wonderful.

Thankfully, I had more to think about than my heels when I was racing. “How many strokes were there from the flags to the wall? Kick out farther, faster! Race, race, race!”

The relays were phenomenal. Everyone was cheering and congratulating each other. When Brian told Emily, Heidi, Amalie and me that we had made sectionals, I was overjoyed. Even better, with our 200 IM relay time we would have made finals last year in high-school Sections!

The rest of the meet went by quickly. My individual races weren’t the best, but the relays and my teammates made the meet so much fun! Before my 100 backstroke, when I was in lane eight, Joe and a few other DART swimmers were hanging off the lane line whispering “Go, Becca!” When the official said “Take your marks,” it took everything I had to keep from smiling.

Despite my heels, the overall meet was one of the most exciting events I’d ever been to. I can’t wait to go to the next meets (Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1)!

By Rebecca Waterson

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