There can be no excuses when entering into a competition, so endure, and go forward.
Upon arriving in Florida last week for the NCSA Junior Nationals, our first stop from the airport was to get 10 hungry swimmers some food. We headed to a Panera Bread close to our hotel for some good choices and convenience. "Thirty minutes is all you have," Rachel told the swimmers. "So get the food and get back to the van!"
I remember being the last one out, as I dug through my luggage for my wallet. Rachel was waiting at the back of the van, key in hand. When I jumped out, she clicked the remote button and we heard the horn beep. We went in to eat.
Coming back to the van, Rachel was the first to notice something wasn’t right. Her bag seemed to be missing. I opened my door, looked inside, and all our luggage was gone. Half of the team lost everything, with one of the most important items being Lia’s USA suit from London.
I know I was stupid for not sitting with the van, but you never think something like this is going to happen in such a short time. Computers, iPads, cameras, suits, clothes, glasses. You focus on everything that was IN the bags, and it’s not until a few days later you realize you lost the bags, too.
A couple days into the meet, one of our swimmers came to us with bites covering his body. To top things off, we had bed bugs. Afternoons of moving rooms, fumigation, and frustrated swimmers (and coaches). Finally, the fever hit one of our best swimmers. It was a very rough week for a team used to having things go well for them.
So, how did the kids swim with all of this conflict going on? We’re still counting because, without a computer, it was tough to gather all of the info easily, but we came home with approximately 10 team records, 10 Metro Swimming records, and 1 NCSA Junior National Champion. In the combined team scores, we cracked into the top 10 with a 9th-place finish.
Our hosts at the Orlando YMCA Aquatic Center came to the rescue for the team, putting together goodie bags filled with water bottles, caps, and assorted gifts for the swimmers. Speedo responded immediately with new suits, caps, googles, and bags for the swimmers, and even the hotel responded immediately, taking care of everyone. (I’ll not name the hotel so as not to incriminate them, but they did a great job taking care of us post bugs, and it was one room, but they treated and cleaned all rooms.)
By the end of the week, we were all ready to get home, if just to regain some control and normalcy in our lives. However, even with the inconvenience of having to shop for clothes, luggage, and phone chargers, the kindness of people, and the spirit of athletes and coaches will always trump the bad things others do.
Ultimately, there were more smiles than frowns, and the NCSA Junior National Meet was an incredible competition, which showcased the health of swimming in the United States.
Seriously? Eighteen-and-under champs and it took a 2:00.7 in the 200 breaststroke to make the top 8. Just incredible.