“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
― Thomas Paine
My mother drove me out to my first practice with the Vista Swim Team one afternoon a few weeks before I was set to start my freshman year of high school. I stepped through a gateway cut into a twelve-foot chain-link fence and onto the deck of an unassuming six-lane public pool. I felt as though I’d been transported into a bygone era of swimming lore. The facility itself was ancient. The pool area was a solid mass of flat yellow concrete, stretching maybe fifteen feet out from the pool’s lip, which overhung an eight-inch trench-like competition gutter, also cast from concrete. I’d seen competition gutters previously, but only at collegiate competition facilities, which typically boasted newer pools, electronic timing systems, and gleaming sidewalls cast from shiny aluminum. By contrast, Vista’s pool had the oldest competition-style gutters I’d ever seen and the only ones made from concrete. Kids had been swimming for time in Vista for decades, and even back in the day, those kids had possessed the right swimming technology, probably since before East Carolina University had even had a swim team.