By the end I could barely croak out a few words. My vocal chords were spent and quite lucky that the competition was only two days long.
The 2017 Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championship was the dawn of a new era for what is still America's top private school competition. Although the meet may never match the glory days of Olympic contenders squaring off, it shouldn't try either.
The world has changed, and elite swimmers have gotten much older since the days when Gustavo Borges could swim at the Bolles School one year and then earn a silver medal in the 100 freestyle the next. Although Borges held on to his 100 freestyle record (now 26 years and counting), his 50 freestyle was finally broken, by Alberto Mestre, a senior from the Hill School.
So what can Easterns hope to be now? Well we started to see it this weekend at Franklin and Marshall. Easterns can and should be one of the most competitive high school meets in the country. The meet had a dramatic improvement of depth from a year ago. It took 4:38 to finish in the top 8 in the men's 500 freestyle, and 57.51 to do so in the men's 100 breaststroke.
But a meet like Easterns should be judged by more than just the times on the clock. High school swimming is the most consistently underrated area of our sport. In fact, our sport suffers from a great inversion, where the parts of our sport that are actually inherently fun and would help to grow the sport are given the least serious attention from within.
High school swimming taps into the natural, human love of competition. We love to see individuals and teams go head to head. We like to see a team champion, at whatever scale. Also, in a world where 3 hour plus baseball games test our patience, we like a flow of action that ends in a reasonable amount of time.
The final crescendo of the weekend was Reece Whitley's high school national best in the 100 breaststroke. It seemed as if the whole pool, swimmers, coaches and spectators, were standing on their toes for it. Two events later, I realized I had the worst headache of my life. I sat down, dizzy.
After drinking about 1.5 liters of water, I started to feel a little better. I had gotten caught up in the meet- the excitement of the swimmers and coaches, the joy on the faces of not just the winners but that first heat swimmer who went a massive personal best. This is swimming at its best.
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