Little did I Know

An allegory for AP English 11

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Little did I Know

John, Drew, Mack, and Carl Prepare for a race!

John, Drew, Mack, and Carl Prepare for a race!

John, Drew, Mack, and Carl Prepare for a race!

John, Drew, Mack, and Carl Prepare for a race!


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“The first high school swim meet is here,” I thought to myself. I knew everything about swimming. After all, I had just practiced for five straight weeks to prepare for this moment. In reality, I knew nothing of the trials to come. With warm, humid air wrapped around my shivering body, I couldn’t think past the next two minutes. Laughing with John, Mack, and Drew, I could conquer the world.

The coaches yell, “Guys, get stretched and ready to warm up!”

I danced around for a few minutes – not stretching at all – and then one by one the older swimmers clambered onto the blocks and plunged into the water. The upperclassmen, who after years of practicing developed a cold, hard composure; swam with ease not worrying about the opposing team’s opinion of them. I, on the other hand, kicked harder and pulled myself faster through the water as if the entire stadium had their eyes focused on me. I made a scene of myself while John sat back quietly thinking about his races.

I laughed, “Why are you thinking about your race? Just get in and swim.”

I pushed away a strategy from a more experienced swimmer when I should have listened and learned from him.

As the National Anthem plays, each swimmer stands quietly facing the flag. This somber moment of silence is one of only a few the night has in store. The silence gives each swimmer an opportunity to reflect on his training and remember what their coaches have told them. John can be seen standing firmly in place with eyes locked on the flag. But, John, clearly deep in his pre-race thought, only can see victory in the flag.

As John, Drew, Mack, and I gear up for the first relay, we stand in a circle and John tells us the game plan.

“Drew, I need you to pull us ahead on the backstroke. Their guy won’t even challenge your speed. Mack, I talked to their coach and their breaststroker will put up a fight against you. But, with Drew’s lead you should be able to stay ahead. I will pull us to a steady lead on the Butterfly. Then, Carl, you will have to bring us in. They have a fast freestyle swimmer but you will be fine.”

It was curious to me to see this level of thought going into a race. All throughout my junior high swimming career we would just go and swim without a thought. I figured he knew what he was doing and to just let it go. He probably just needed to say that for himself.

As Drew jumps in the water for his start, the crowd quiets down and each relay member squats down low to the ground so the timers can start their watches. The official has each boy take his mark. Then, within the second the buzzer beep Drew leaps of the wall and takes the lead. Mack is prepared on the block for Drew’s return and faces his opponent with speed and grace, countering each of the other boy’s attempts to overtake his own first place position. Just as John had said each boy listened diligently and held up their part of the deal. John climbs up on the block, looking monstrously huge compared to the competition, takes a deep breath and goes through his mind to find his focus. Right on schedule, he takes a three second lead. I, without thinking of John’s words in my cluttered mind, look around for my parents; I look at the coaches, and then I realized that John is almost to the wall. But, I don’t have my goggles on. I have them wrapped around my wrist. Without time to put them on, I plunge into the water and hope for the best. I lose our lead and in turn I lose the race.

As I looked up at John with bloodshot eyes from the chlorine, All he said, “We’ll get them next time man.”

I learned more from that relay more than in the rest of my swimming career. As I prepare for every race, I think about that moment when I, the freshman on the fast relay team, lost it all because I couldn’t bother to be focused.

Continuing on with my seasons, I continued to learn from different people. Hoping to gain any sliver of knowledge that would one day push me to new heights, I talk to almost every fast swimmer friendly enough to share advice for me. I understand that If I want to have success in my life, then I need to learn from all my experiences.

Reflecting, I, now a junior, say similar things to the underclassman hoping they can learn something from me. I only hope is that they can learn from me in a way that I failed to learn from John. I now can feel my season coming to an end with goal in sight that might or might not be achieved. I can only wish for more advice and teachers along the way in the hope of reaching those far off goals.

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