The Importance of a Single Swim

8:02PM – November 10, 2010

Out of breath, heart racing, sweat awkwardly escaping my pores, I sprinted across Wabash’s dimly lit campus from the Fine Arts Center to the Class of 1950 Natatorium, fully dressed in a suit in tie, complete with my meet suit underneath, with the full intentions of doing the impossible: Performing in the Brass Ensemble Concert as well as competing against our arch-rivals, DePauw University, in swimming in the same hour and a half time span. Why you ask? The times inconveniently overlapped, and being the school’s only tuba, I had to balance my duty between my team and my ensemble. This is my story in a few important, scattered, yet coherently connected thoughts, grammatical oddities and all.

Late Summer, Early Fall 2010

As I began to compare my schedules between the Wabash Swimming Team and the Wabash Brass Ensemble, a sheer look of horror made its way across my face: My last duel meet with DePauw—a momentous deal for any Wabash Athlete—occurred a half hour before a Band Concert. Normally, this would not be a big deal, because in the ten years I have played a brass instrument, I have been able to equally balance swimming and music, alternating groups with conflicts. But this was given someone could pick up the slack, much like on an athletic team. But as the sole tubist, this year my choices were not so clear-cut: Since literally no one could play my part, if I left the ensembles’ sound would be destroyed, much like a stereo system with several blown speakers. In agony I began to pray for a way out. And hard.

Honors Scholars Weekend, 2007

The thing that brought me to Wabash College was the possibility of both playing my tuba in the Brass Ensemble and continuing my swimming career. But this isn’t without its own share of irony. For the Friday of Honors Scholars was one of the most stressful days of my young life. First, I participated in the required activities during the day; second, auditioned Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” for a Fine Arts Scholarship (I would later receive) in the afternoon; and third, snuck out to swim at relay at Crawfordsville High School with my home club team, Sugar Creek Swim Club, in the Speedo Sectional Championship Meet they were hosting. So at the outset, my very Wabash life has been defined by the tension between music and athletics. But herein lie the differences: It was an individual audition at my own convenience, it wasn’t against DePauw, and they did not overlap.

Early Fall (Perhaps October), 2010

As I stood before my teammates, attempting to explain that I would be absent from the DePauw Duel Meet to fulfill my obligations to another team, I honestly wondered if I would be tackled. After all, missing out on a chance to compete against DePauw is a Wabash sin! And lingering in my mind was the knowledge that although the Brass Ensemble was highly important to me, it wasn’t to them, hence my fear of being tackled. It was during this meeting that I answered that, “Due to the overlap I could not be in two places at once, and the moral responsibilities to both my Fine Arts Scholarship and the Instrumentation dictated that I didn’t really have much of a choice: The Ensemble needed me more”. And so it was that I officially made it known that I would not be present at the DePauw Duel.

Monday – November 8, 2010

As the week of the Duel Meet dawned, my agony blossomed with an odd question: Could I really be in two places at once? Was it worth the risk? But then again, Wabash Men have not changed the world without taking risks. Thus, I began to critically examine the schedules and noticed an important detail I hadn’t before: The Duel Meet began at 7:00; the Concert at 7:30; and my best event, the one that missed NCAA’s in last year by .05, the 100 Butterfly, would theoretically occur at 8:15.

And so the idea grew legs of its own, and I sprinted over to Coach Barnes and begged (I quote myself almost verbatim): “Coach, is there any way you can pencil me in an outside lane for the 100 Butterfly? There may be a fifteen-minute gap between the two, and I can wear my Speedos to the concert, sprint to the pool, do a ten-minute warm-up—heck! I’ll skip the warm-up!—and rip out a 52.5.”

Although I was highly exaggerating my time so that he would let me try it (for my season best was a 53.5, and my dual meet best, partially tapered, was a 52.99) Coach thought about it for a moment and agreed. With renewed hope I took a deep breath and set my sights on doing the impossible.

8:05PM – November 10, 2010

As I threw open the doors to the Allen Athletic Center, feverishly taking off my jacket and unbuttoning my shirt as I dashed to the pool, one lone word clouded my thoughts: Victory. I had survived the Concert, and time might actually allow for me to compete against DePauw in a Duel Meet one last time. When I reached the pool deck, I immediately threw my clothes in a pile—to the utter surprise of my teammates, who weren’t aware my suit was already on—and made my way to the warm-up pool, heart rate predictably near one-seventy. And to the surprised looks of everyone there (for only an hour before I was on deck cheering in a suit and tie) I did less than four hundred yards to prepare for my race, and promptly walked the blocks.

Around 8:15PM – November 10, 2010

The five hundred freestyle was winding down as I arrived behind the block in lane eight, and I could hear the excited cheers for the upcoming race coming from a few, supportive members of my home swim club. Anxiously and nervously I looked up, smiled, and continued focusing on my race. No more than ninety seconds later, the starter blew his gun, signaling the race was about to end, and a new thought entered my mind: I’m about to do the ‘impossible’.

As the starter blew the whistle and I stepped up on the blocks, I had no expectations. I just wanted to race my guts out. “Take your marks!” I leaned down, mind clear, nerves about to short circuit in a frenzy. “BEEP!” I cannoned off the blocks and let pure, racing instinct take over. At the first wall I saw my dear friend and training partner, Joe Reese, cheer me on as I ducked deep and pushed off again. I couldn’t see Lane Seven. Halfway through the race I had no clue how fast I was going or where I was in relation to everyone else, so I pushed forward with every last ounce of strength, not breathing the entire last twelve and a half yards, and forced my hands at the wall, fearing my lungs would explode.

A few moments of eerie silence followed as I fought my nearsightedness, squinting to see the clock. Third. Fifty-two fifty-three.

An uncontrollable burst of joy escaped from my heaving lungs. I hopped out of the water, well aware I had just accomplished the time I, in essence, lied I would do, and exuberantly shouted to Coach while emulating an NFL victory dance: “Called it!”

Later That Night, Still During The Meet

Coach told me he wanted some sort of blog on my experiences, and since I couldn’t keep it concise or ordered, this is the result: A big mess that works, my like my experiences. But before I ending, I would like to point out two, important details that we can learn from. First, being in two places at once isn’t easy, but it’s intensely rewarding; and second, Wabash Always Fights!

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2 Responses to The Importance of a Single Swim

  1. Adam Petro says:

    Good for you current! Congratulations! Good Luck with the rest of your season!

  2. James Makubuya says:

    Steve,
    This is an impressive story. It represents a unique individual that is both serious, committed, focused and very reliable. I wish many of your college-mates read about it.
    Thank you again for sharing.
    JKMakubuya
    Chair, Music Dept.