About halfway through the race, I was thinking "Who’s crazy idea was this anyway?" Then I remembered, it was MINE! At our recent Bucknell swim camp, we would have the coaches actually RACE any combination of swimmers at the camp in a 400 medley relay. At least I was smart enough to put in the clause that the relay would be swum as 8 x 50s, rather than 4 x 100s.
Because there were only seven coaches at the Bucknell swim camp, one of us would have to swim two legs of the relay. We decided NOT to use our best swimmer, 23-year-old Sean, to swim two legs because it would make the relay unfair (so we thought). Instead, we decided that I would perform the dual leg. I’d swim the first leg of breaststroke, then the 2nd leg of fly. Our first two swimmers, Marcia and Judson, were NOT backstrokers, but both volunteered because nobody else wanted to swim this stroke.
The campers led off with their strongest swimmers. The first three legs consisted of young men with an average height of 6’2", and the 4th leg consisted of a nationally ranked 14-year-old breaststroker swimming against our own Masters National Champion, Barbara. Needless to say, we were getting CRUSHED by the time Sean left the blocks for the fly leg.
The campers had built up a seemingly insurmountable lead until Sean lept off the blocks for the first fly leg. Although the first leg of fly was solid for the campers, it’s tough for a young camper to stay out of reach of an NCAA Division I male swimmer. By the time I left the blocks for the second leg of fly, we actually had a bit of hope. Although the campers will assert that the young lady swimming the 2nd leg of fly didn’t actually try as hard as she could have, I had already given a talk about respecting your competition, and always trying your hardest, even if you’re sure of winning, the speculation will always remain as the tape shows a consistent stroke rate on both the 1st and 2nd 25s (she wants a rematch…I’m smarter than that).
The campers had one of their most spirited swimmers (age 13) swimming the first leg of freestyle when Jerry, Bucknell’s Head Swim Coach, came out of a 25-year self-imposed taper, just for this race, and chased him down.
The final leg consisted of a 6’6" camper (who’s only recently taken up the sport of swimming) and Craig, our very own sprinter champ (OK, an Ironman triathlete and marathon runner) giving chase. All I can say is that it really was one of the most exciting races I’ve been involved in. It came down to the slightest of margins at the finish, probably about 6 inches, but it was clear, the coaches had won.
These kids really surprised us with how hard they fought all the way through. It was really fun, and very tiring for just a 50. This was the kind of team spirit we had been looking to create among them, and risked our own credibility in the process.
Although we stumbled away with the narrow victory, the swimmers, who raced us after spending 5 to 6 hours a day in the water for four days, walked away with a ton of respect. They simply are great kids, and we had a wonderful time working with them at Bucknell’s tremendous facility. We hope these smiling swimmers learned to never give up, an to never give anything but their all ALL the time — ’cause ya never know who’s gonna come back and catch you in the end. Even some old-time coaches.
Average heart rate after the race:
The last thought on this… as Apollo Creed said to Rocky in their last fight… "Ain’t gonna be no rematch!" These kids are only getting better, and with age comes wisdom. I think we’ll quit while we’re ahead.
If you’ve got the bandwidth, we’ve got the video. It’s 7 megs, so give it a chance, but it’s a fun race to watch. Enjoy.