Motivational Monday: How a Senior Swimmer Beat Challenges During Grueling Championship Meet

Lane lines Kazan
Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia

Motivational Monday: How a Senior Beat Challenges During Grueling Championship Meet

By Elizabeth Kelley, Guest Contributor

Breathe, it’s only a 200, I tell myself. Eight laps butterfly — that’s all it is. A shiver runs down my spine as I think about the amount of pain my body is about to experience. 

“Next up is heat 2 of the women’s 200 butterfly,” the announcer says as the first heat finishes, all with looks of exhaustion across their faces. 

“Swimmers, take your mark — BEEP!” 

I stand nervously behind where the timers have just seated themselves, resting their legs as the swimmers attempt to complete the 200. I adjust my overly tight black tech suit, double checking it didn’t rip, like the last one. 

The second heat of swimmers reach the wall — only 100 yards left.

I look over the timer’s shoulder scanning the sheet for my name, making sure I am in the right lane, one last time. I step up to the black line along with everyone else in my heat, as the heat before me makes their final turn. I shove my goggles on my face and anxiously tug at my cap assuring myself it won’t fall off. 

Only one lap — the toughest one of the event. 

Ok, this is it. You’ve been training for this event for months, so there is no reason to be worried. Breathe. This is YOUR EVENT. Fast turns and kicks off every wall, and keep your hips up when you get tired. Just like you practiced. 

I jump up and down and fix my cap and suit for the final time as the timers get up and stand over the edge of the pool. 

This is it, Elizabeth. Give it everything you’ve got.


Prior to every long weekend meet, the inevitable feeling of nervousness invades my thoughts, despite the months of training. The buildup to championship season is stressful for all swimmers, as it is what we have been preparing and working for for so long. Whether that means pushing ourselves to get up at 5:00 a.m. to attend practice before school or continuing to push ourselves at mentally challenging practices despite how tired and sore our bodies may be. I get through by reminding myself that all of it will pay off in these upcoming weeks. 

A few days before our State meet, my coach gathers all who will be attending the meet the following weekend, to discuss with us what each of our goals were for the forthcoming meet or what exactly it is that we hope to accomplish or a specific change we want to make in a certain event. This particular question always makes that pre-meet anxiety disappear a little, because for me, thinking about what exactly I want to come out of the weekend makes me feel more confident in the effort I’ve been putting into the season in order to improve my overall performance.

For this particular meet, I hoped to drop in both of my fly events, as I had been working on fast kicks off the walls and breathing regularly to maintain a fast and steady tempo throughout the entire race. In addition, my coach stressed the importance of having a positive mindset. She explained that how we react in the face of adversity or disappointment ultimately determines the outcome of the rest of the weekend. 

On the first relay of the weekend, my brand new tech suit — purchased specifically for this big meet — ripped at the seam, only half an hour before my toughest lineup of the whole weekend — the 200 freestyle, 200 butterfly, and 400 individual medley. Yes, I know I am crazy.

I was speechless when it ripped and had no idea what I was going to do. This was the day that mattered the most to me. This was the day that I hoped to see the most progress, but now that goal seemed impossible. I remembered that I packed my old black tech suit and threw it on as fast as I could, however I was still frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to swim as well in a suit that had been worn way too many times. As I explained to my coach what had happened, she reminded me that I shouldn’t let something this insignificant ruin the important day ahead of me. I reminded myself that a suit did not determine the outcome of my race, and I continued to focus on my goals I had for the next event, the 200 fly. 

Judge during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 25th, 2023.

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Dealing with this situation on the first day of the meet changed my outlook on the rest of the weekend: how I personally react to my performance ultimately determines the outcome of the rest of my events. Having this mindset drastically changed my attitude toward State, and allowed me to enjoy the weekend with my teammates. Although I added time in prelims, I luckily placed high enough to swim the 200 fly in finals, and having a positive attitude led me to drop a little more than two and a half seconds.

I had to remind myself that the whole point of championship season is not to drop time and attain personal bests — it is to enjoy the journey. The practices with encouraging coaches and teammates got you this far. The people that made you smile through the exhaustion you were fighting during early morning practice got you here. Most importantly, your desire to improve and become an even better swimmer and teammate got you to where you are today. 

Enjoy the tough moments when you are frustrated with your coach for giving you a hard practice, or when you are disappointed with your half-second add in your best event, try to look at the situation a little differently. You are surrounded by people who (like you) are working their absolute hardest to become the best versions of themselves. It is not just about the final swim, but about the journey. 


One lap. That’s all it is. 

My arms were nearing the state of complete and total numbness as I advanced closer and closer to the end of the pool, unsure if I was actually kicking as it felt as if my legs were approaching a point of no return. I could hear my teammates and coach scattered along the edge of the pool and at the end of my lane cheering me on, pushing me to finish my 200 fly. I wanted to finish and feel that sense of accomplishment as my body slowly returned to its normal state. I wanted to finish strong and keep my hips up despite the tiredness that had overtaken me.

Most importantly, I wanted to finish to prove to myself that I could in fact swim the event that intimidated me the most.

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Mark Goedecke
Mark Goedecke
28 days ago

Well done, Elizabeth! It’s wonderful to get a glimpse of life in the fast lane. Congratulations!

Anonymous
Anonymous
28 days ago

As someone who has just recently experienced a championship weekend where goal times did not come, this read has encouraged me to see my season in a different light. I have spent the time since sulking in defeat, yet now I see vividly the meaningful memories made along the way. Congratulations for beating the 2 fly, and for writing an eye opening piece.

Last edited 28 days ago by Anonymous
Matt F.
Matt F.
28 days ago

Great Job EK!

Lew Thompson
Lew Thompson
27 days ago

This is amazing! You go Elizabeth!!!

Ellie Chalupsky
Ellie Chalupsky
27 days ago

This is awesome! Way to go Elizabeth!

Adair Shaw
Adair Shaw
27 days ago

Absolutely incredible! So proud of you Elizabeth!!

Alison Kowalski
Alison Kowalski
27 days ago

Way to go, Elizabeth! Y’all make it look easy from the stands. Great insight into the grueling work that goes into those fast races.

Deborah R
Deborah R
24 days ago

Congratulations, Elizabeth! Beautifully written!

Lisa Kent
Lisa Kent
24 days ago

Elizabeth you’re such a beautiful inspiration! I’m so proud of you xx Love, Ms.Kent

Leah
Leah
14 days ago

Awesome article Elizabeth! I am very proud of the awesome young lady that you are.

Ms. Leah Spann

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