Here & there: Following in the wake of a 6-year-old swimming champ

Swimmers diving off the blocks in a 50M Boys 10-11 butterfly race Tuesday. Sandy, Utah, June 2, 2017. | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

FEATURE — International swimming phenomenon Michael Phelps and I have something in common: We’ve both held records in the 100-meter Butterfly. In fairness to Phelps, however, I must point out that my record was at La Cumber Country Club in the small beachside town of Santa Barbara, California. And it was in the illustrious “6 and under division.”

But I did hold said record for almost 25 years. No, I was not THAT fast. I was just THAT crazy.

The day I swam my record-setting butterfly, I was the only child who’d signed up for the race. There were dozens of swimmers and spectators observing form the chlorine-slopped deck; I suspect they were waiting to see me sink.

Except for my dad. He already knew I was too stubborn to drown. And too spunky to give up.

As I mounted the rough-coated, white diving block that hovered over the turquoise water, nervous for the task ahead, he stood 25 meters away, feet planted squarely above my lane, willing me towards him.

I could feel his telepathic encouragement. Then, I could hear moments later when I hit the wall at his feet for my first flip-turn.

Only three more laps to go. Three long, hard, and beautiful laps of butterfly.

As I inched down the pool and back, I remember repeating my coach’s stroke instructions in my head: kick in front, kick in back; kick in front, kick in back. Two kicks for every arm stroke. And breath. And repeat.

Seventy-five meters later I triumphantly two-hand-touched the rim of the pool and garnered my place in history. At least for those who happened to read the tiny plaque in an obscure spot at a small country club in a beachside town in California. And for my dad.

This summer, I’m not going to be in the pool as much as I’m going to be by the pool – cheering on two of my three boys from the sidelines as they swim on a local team.

I signed them up for much the same reason my mom signed up me and my siblings for swim team: so they can be good swimmers.

She never felt comfortable in the water and therefore wanted us to be.

And because I’m comfortable in the water, thanks to my mom, I want my boys to be so too; which is exactly what they’ll be after swimming dozens of miles over the course of the summer at swim team practice.

Earlier this week my boys had their first meet. Both swam individual races with a pool full of kids. Both swam relays, with four swimmers evenly dividing the 100-meter race but as luck would have it, both of their relay teams had one no-show – Oops.

Moments before his incomplete relay started, my 7-year-old volunteered to swim the first leg of his race in addition to the third he was planning on swimming.

He just had to swim the first 25 meters of the race, get out of the pool, hustle back on foot to the starting block before the No. 2 kid swam there, and then jump back in the pool to swim another 25 meters.

Which he did … with a whole lot of gusto – even while taking in some water.

My 10-year-old was already in the pool swimming the third leg of his relay when his coach realized the No. 4 kid wasn’t on the other end of the pool. When my boy reached what he thought was the end, he had half the pool yelling at him to keep going.

Although it took a few seconds to register, as soon as it did, he plunged back in for another 25 meters. With resolve – and while swimming the wrong stroke.

Neither of my two swimmers will likely set some 25-year record this summer or any other summer for that matter. But it’s not like that record really translated into any long-term swimming success for me anyway.

What that 100-meter butterfly experience did reveal, however, was a certain determination in me.

Sometimes, among all the bathroom talk and fist fights, it’s hard to see how my character manifests in my progeny of boys. Heaven knows it’s certainly not in their table manners.

But in the pool this week, watching them swim extra laps with pluck and grit, I saw some of the character the pool revealed in me. I think that’s the part that made my dad so proud from his stance under the lane lines all those years ago. I know that’s what made me proud of my boys.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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