Wednesday, May 28, 2014

200 Butterfly at the Army-Navy Swim Meet, 1991

This is one of the top two or three best swims of my entire career.  My father filmed it, and my wife had it digitized for my birthday this year.  Awesome gift.  It's not every day that you get to show off one of your top accomplishments publicly.

Coming into the race, Navy had won this event the last three years in a row.  I'm the incredibly ugly, bald kid in Lane 4 in the not-so-safe-for-work speedo.

Unfortunately, Army lost the meet that year, the first time that had happened in four years--and not the last, sadly.  Still, I have to admit that I'm proud of this performance.  When someone asked me what my best moment was at the Academy at the end of my Firstie year, I named this race without hesitation.  If memory serves, I put down a 1:51-something, and while I'm not sure if that was a PR or not, it was close, one way or another.  I was always a better long course swimmer--I mean, those turns suck!--but 1:51 wasn't bad for the 200 fly short course.  As I recall, it was enough to place me somewhere in the top 100 butterfliers nationally.

The biggest thing I remember about this race is that I was losing with 75 yards to go, and I spent the next 25 yards trying to convince myself that second place was okay, that getting second was nothing to be ashamed of.  But I made up a little ground heading into that last fifty, and when we turned, I distinctly remember thinking, "Fuck second.  I'd rather die than lose this race!"

The last 25 yards in particular were as good as I ever got in the pool.

If you're wondering, I had two other all-time best races.  The first was the 100 fly at the San Diego CIF Championships my freshman year in high school, where I went a :55-something, placed fifth, and managed my first ever AAAA-time.  The other was the finals of the 100 fly at the Patriot League Championships my Cow (junior) year at the Academy, probably the best I ever swam in my entire career.  That was the one and only time that we didn't shave and taper fully for Patriots, instead saving our best stuff for the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships two weeks later, at which the Army Team placed an outstanding fourth overall.  

By the time that Patriot League race rolled around, I'd had a rivalry going with the flyier from Fordham for a couple of years, and it wasn't friendly.  He was the better sprinter, but I'd won the 200 fly consistently, and I want to say that our Medley Relay dominated theirs, too.  Anyway, suffice it to say that no words were exchanged in the green room that day.  But as we walked out, they played Rage Against the Machine's "Bullet in the Head", and I started feeling it.  I remember getting off the blocks like a rocket, putting the hammer down right from the start, and winning that race by a full half-body length.  I want to say that I went :50-something, but it might've been :51.  Several guys told me afterwards that it was the best race they'd ever seen, and I have to agree that it was the best I ever swam personally.  

But there's no video of that race; we only have this one.  Still, this one is pretty awesome, too, and when I think of what was awesome about being at West Point, this race is always the first thing that comes into my mind.

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