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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It's Happening: Conference 2015

EVERYBODY STAY CALM.

My coach sent us that link on the day we left for Birmingham to compete in the 2015 Southern Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships (aka SAA's or Conference). It quickly became a mantra for all of us as the weekend progressed and as things started to well, happen.

I'll give y'all a little information about our conference before I start delving into the weekend's details. The conference I compete in is comprised of 6 schools: Sewanee: The University of the South, Centre College, Berry College, Hendrix College, Millsaps College, Birmingham Southern College, and my beloved Rhodes College. All of these schools (with the exception of Sewanee) are all undergraduate institutions who have a plethora of Division 3 sports teams that are highly competitive amongst each other and other D3 schools. Millsaps does not have a swim program, so it was just the other 4 schools competing with us.

Going into the meet, we had won all of our dual meets against every team in our conference (i.e. we were undefeated in our conference), but we knew that a lot of the top programs didn't always bring their best swimmers to dual meets for whatever reasons. So, we were a little apprehensive. We were confident in our abilities to go into the meet and swim as fast as we possibly could, but on the girls side, we knew we had a serious shot at winning for the first time in school history.

Four years ago, my coach, Charlie, started at Rhodes. The program I participate in today was not what he started with in 2010. Rhodes was at the very bottom of the conference, and he has built the team up to get us to the top. We knew our biggest competitor by far was going to be Birmingham Southern. They have an incredibly competitive program as well as a lot of resources available to them, like incredible funding and a plethora of pools to practice in. In addition, they often recruit girls who could compete at higher divisions, and because of all of their resources, they are able to attract them to a D3 liberal arts school. In other words, they have a lot of very nice things to offer prospective athletes, and as such are able to end up with a lot of incredible swimmers on their team.

Now, I'm not saying that Rhodes doesn't have any of those things either by any means. I'm just trying to give you guys a way to understand what we were up against. Long story short, BSC is VERY good at swimming. Since the meet was in Birmingham, they had the home-field advantage. They practiced in the pool we had the meet in, and got to sleep in their own beds instead of a hotel bed. We were definitely the underdogs, because BSC was the defending champion.

As the meet began on Wednesday night, girls were pulling out incredibly fast times. The next few days were an absolute whirlwind because my teammates were swimming so well and were going faster than they had ever imagined possible.

On Thursday night, we were behind BSC by 6 points, which is a very small margin in swimming. Friday night, we were ahead by 4.5, an even tighter race. Finally, Saturday night, it got even closer. After a few events, BSC was up 3.5 points going into the final relay. We had to win this relay in order to win the meet. It was the most nerve-wracking thing to watch, as BSC's swimmers and fans screamed for their girls to go faster, we did the exact same thing. However, after 2 legs of the relay (there are 4 total), we had enough of a lead that BSC actually stopped cheering for their girls. It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Honestly, they could have caught up, but they didn't. We won the relay, we won the meet. Although I was not on that relay, I was so excited for the girls who were, because they carried the team on their backs to a championship.

I'm so proud of all of my teammates who constantly worked hard over the past several months to emerge victorious. It was not an easy season. It was demanding, grueling, challenging, and just downright hard. I am so incredibly honored to say that I get the honor of spending a ridiculous amount of time with these people every single day, and that they are my family.


Roll lynx.

xx, Victoria

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xx, Victoria