The lights of the Rutgers University natatorium seemed to be shining brighter than ever on the last night of the Metropolitan Conference Championships. I stepped up on the starting block to swim the 200-yard butterfly for my last race of the season. For the second straight year, I finished in 16th place and our team once again finished in second place, just shy of winning a championship.
Unlike the year before, I was extremely disappointed with my performance. I didn’t come close to any of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. This offseason, there was going to be no offseason for me. I only rested for a few days before returning to a workout routine, and I planned on practicing and competing all summer long.
By the time spring break rolled around, I felt ready to race again. I even spent time training while I was visiting my sister in Colorado. However, just three days into my trip, everything came to a screeching halt. Colorado shut everything down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. My home city of New York had closed everything down too.
My parents and I found ourselves driving all the way back to the East Coast. There were no gyms or pools open for training anywhere. At first, I thought this would just last for a few weeks, but it would be months before I touched the water again. This stretch was the longest I had ever spent away from the pool since I became a competitive swimmer.
The swim season can be grueling. Days normally start around 6 a.m. and end either at 5 p.m., or whenever our last class lets out. However, after a few weeks out of the water, there was a common feeling among our team: we missed the pool.
When I finally got invited to swim with my club team at the end of July, I embraced the pain of being out of shape. I was just happy to be able to swim at all. I trained rigorously for the next eight weeks. However, New York City public outdoor pools closed after Labor Day weekend. Once again, there was no swimming for an extended period of time. The motivation to work out or get work done outside of the pool started to dip as time went on.
Recently, I watched some of my friends race on national television in the U.S. Open Championship. Watching them race made me miss competing even more. This past week, my teammates and I returned to Packer Hall for our first practice together since the end of February. Even though we were limited to only a few swimmers for each practice session, it felt great to be back in the water with my teammates.
There is no guarantee that there will be any sports in 2021. However, I just want to race one more time before I graduate. Nothing would be more heartbreaking than being robbed of my last season competing, in a sport that I’ve invested myself in since I was eight years old. Competition is what keeps me motivated to work hard, and it’s been hard at times to keep my head up knowing that I may never race again.