Boys and Girls Ultimate: State Championships
Teams must qualify.
The feeling I got in my stomach was twisted, cringeable, and overwhelming. As I stepped out of the deep blue Volkswagen, the energy in the air was tangible. I could feel the tension I had in the air all around me. It was quite beautiful, the way the grass swayed in the wind and the sound of the river flushed again the docks. I’ve never been on a boat before, so getting into a small, claustrophobic crew boat probably wasn’t a bright idea. But then again, Quid Pro Quo, I had to do this. I went to California, and I gave my word, I always stick to it.
My aunt signed me up for this two week rowing camp and I dreaded it. The day of, I rolled out of bed not changing out of my pajamas until five minutes before leaving. My family and I have dreams of me going to UC Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, UPenn, and so on. I’ve always bugged them trying to find a sport I like, and they thought rowing would look good on my application. I was always told to try it, or to give it a shot. Not until last summer, did I even think about it. I wanted to visit my other family in bright and sunny California, across the country, and the only way my aunt agreed, was if I tried this two-week rowing camp.
“Have a good day sweetie, and remember you try it once, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want!” my aunt said, as I slowly made my way away from the car towards the sparkling, blue Schuylkill river that lay ahead of me. I thought to myself “Let’s just get this day over with Mar.” The smell of fresh water, trees, nature, and sweat all filled my nose as I walked toward the crowd of people who were also doing the camp. It made me nauseous. The kids sat on the prickling grass with big smiles on their face, as if it were their birthday or the last day of school.
Rowing is an art, the finest art out there, and when it reaches you, when it touches your soul it changes your world. Crew is a sport that controls your mind and your body. It’s a dream where pain and pleasure collide. I didn’t choose rowing, rowing chose me.
Everything from then on is only but a blur. The way that the oars hit the water, splashing it gently, and moving my legs in perfect synch. The lines of symmetry, the colors of the trees that I passed by. Ever since this first moment, I’ve been rowing non-stop for a year. To find a passion, and devote your mind and body to it is something not many people experience. I can’t see a person in life becoming successful or happy without giving everything he’s got to make it happen. A true passion is finding something you love, and not being able to imagine life without it. I can’t remember what exactly I did, or why I even got up in the morning before rowing. It’s that particular drive to do something out of your comfort zone or to push yourself forward. I’ve become obsessed with rowing, and I wish that everyone could love something as much as I’m able to love this sport.
Sometimes, you do something you regret, or wish you didn’t, but sometimes just by chance you find something that shakes your world upside down. It was as if my heart finally chose what it loved. Rowing is not something that you choose, but more like it chooses you. Waking up 3 hours earlier, and going to bed at 9 o’clock, eating like there’s no tomorrow, popping the blisters that fill my hands, so much pain in my hands that I can barely wash my hair. These things are why people ask me why I row.
But that’s not it. Why do I row? The reason I row is that feeling I get during a race. When sitting at the start waiting for the coxswain to scream “ROW” before I glide off onto the river, 500m, 1000m, it’s a game of inches. Adrenaline flies through my veins, all eight in perfect synch, catch stroke slide. Large needles in our thighs, our arms going to fall off, and that feeling, that particular feeling when you have 200m to go, where you know you may not make it to the finish line, you might die first. As individuals we pulse together as one, we push drive soar; finally we get past the finish line. The pain in our bodies stabbing us, as we glide with our oars on the water. We’re done. The reason I row, is for the best worst feeling in the world.
“Don’t worry” my sister said, “ I’ll be home before you know it”. Those few words meant the world to me, but I knew I wouldn’t see her for another month. How could someone that looks this fine be so messed up?
It was a cold snowy day and I didn’t want to leave the warmth of the car. Also, I was terrified to enter yet another rehab. I used to think they were all the same, long hallways and lights that shine a little too bright, but this one was different. It was a large cabin in the woods. I was going there to visit my older sister. After I finally got the courage to go inside, I noticed the fresh smell of apple pie. The lighting was dim and soft, like a cozy house.
The second I saw my sister my heart dropped. She tackled me to the carpeted floor in front of everyone. We rolled around and cried our eyes out, so happy to be together again. When we realized an audience had gathered around us, we started laughing but we didn’t stop hugging. This was weird because we never really hugged before. After seeing her at that moment, I knew everything was going to be okay.Little did I know she would relapse and overdose 2 weeks later.
I was always expecting that call. The call saying that something horrible had happened to her. I knew it would happen, but didn’t know when. Maybe I was just being overprotective. She meant the world to me, and if anything happened to her I don’t know what I would do. After she left rehab I assumed this would never happen. I was always afraid of her giving in and going back to drugs. I thought maybe this time was different. Maybe she would stay clean for me. I knew she wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if she was strong enough.
The day I finally got the call was one of the worst days of my life. I remember getting off the bus and entering my house.It was dead silent, and I knew something was wrong. Nobody was home. I looked at my phone and my mom called me. I answered immediately and heard the beeping of the hospital machines in the background. Before I knew it tears were streaming down my face, and my mom asked me to meet her at the hospital. I called my best friend and got on the bus crying my eyes out. I’m sure there were many eyes staring at me, but I didn’t care. When I got to the hospital, I saw her boyfriend in the waiting room, who got her addicted to heroin. He was asking if he could go see her, and that set me off. I started screaming at the top of my lungs at him and the security guards who were trying to hold me back. I saw Michelle and slowly walked over to her. The look on her face will haunt me forever.How could she do this to me? She promised she wouldn’t do this again. I trusted her. She’s so young and innocent. She has so much more living to do. It all started when she was 13. She got mixed in with the wrong crowd, and it took off from there. My mom used to be an alcoholic, so I think my sisters way of dealing with that was to also drink. And once my mom noticed how messed up Michelle was, it caused her to drink more. It was a never ending cycle. I don’t remember when my mom stopped drinking, but Michelle never stopped. She made it a point to try every drug possible. By the age of 19 she was already in rehab twice. By 20 she was in there at least 5 times. I don’t know why she doesn’t want to get better. She’s always been very depressed, and I think this is an escape for her.
Looking back on it now, it couldn’t have been more of a mistake. Why did I say yes? Why did I volunteer my time? Why did I commit? Yes, I love it.. but was it worth it? Three days out of the week was such an easy commitment, but I should have known that having my dad as my coach wasn’t going to be. My mom told me don’t go, I was wasting my time. But I didn’t want to be a dancer, I wanted to embrace the tomboy inside of me and break out of that girly shell that I hid under for so long. I didn’t fit in. The dancing world was not the world for me, I was a little fat girl who looked ridiculous in a tutu. So I figured why not become an athlete, as long as I practiced; the talent would come naturally. Softball cannot be that hard. Atleast thats what I told myself. The first practice was a breeze, but that was only icing on the cake for what was about to come. I didn’t expect to be pushing myself so hard, but I figured thats what athletes do, they go until they can’t go anymore.
The night of the twelfth game, was the last game before we found out who was making it into the championships. My heart pounded as the last few innings were played and I couldn’t even fathom the idea of us even making it into the championships, but by the looks of how this game was ending, we were headed that way. We were three runs from ending this game and finding out the open positions for the championship brackets. Before I knew it, my friend Breanna hit a homerun with the a runner on second and third. That was it! She scored the last three runs! I couldn't wait to line up and shake hands so that the faster that was over, the faster we would find out.. It was so nerve racking. “Girls, go sit by the first baseline really quick before you go. It will just be a minute I promise” yelled my dad from the plate as he continued to talk to the umpire. As we sat in our circle, the emotions were high. We knew that there was a really high chance that we were the ones involved in the championships but there was no way to be sure. Moments later, my dad makes his way over to our huddle with a piece of paper in his hand. He hands the paper to one of the girls and walks away.
There we were.. all in anticipation to open the piece of folded paper and find out what was on the other side. Were we to open it? or let it sit as it was? Our fate was written in front of us.. Breanna uttered the words.. “WE MADE IT!” Our hearts dropped. We made it into the championship.. we were one step closer to being champions! Two games and it was it.. The girls were in a different mindset, one that proved how truly dedicated they were to more than just a sport.. but a passion.
The day of the final game came upon us and it was time to realize what we had to do. We had to win at all costs.
With one single crack of the bat, I was off! The ball made it right over the head of the first basemen and the right fielder completely misjudged it, she gave me 15 extra feet! The crowd was roaring! Screaming my name and cheering me on. “I can do this!” I thought to myself. “I can make it to at least third” Running as hard and fast, I can feel my knees getting weak and I feel like i'm stomping on the Earth. I realized it was going to happen, I was going get to at least third with that hit but I wanted to run home. My dad, the coach was on the third base line waiting for me, waving his arms for me to keep going all the while screaming for me to be careful running the bases. He didn’t want me to slack off on the base running and get caught in the path of a fielder. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Somehow, the left fielder got a hold of the ball and was throwing it into third. “No! This can't be happening” I thought to myself as I realized that I was nowhere close to third and I was going to have to slide in to make it. I’ve only slid in a game once before and that was the previous season, so I am really not prepared. I’ve missed every sliding practice due to family matters and I don’t even know the proper technique, but I have to do it; I have to slide. “It can't be that hard, just kick your leg out and fall down. I guess it was that easy huh?
Then it happened, I slid! I did it! or at least I thought I did. When I was coming down, my leg got caught under the third baseman's and her cleat crushed my kneecap. I heard it shatter, the bone was sticking out. I already knew I was going to be called out, but I can't even get up to shake it off, we were going to lose because of me. Where is everyone? Why aren't they helping me? I'm starting to get nausea and dizzy, I think I'm going to faint. Its the championship game, I'm bleeding and I can't even stand up. Someone carry me off the field. All I can remember is screaming for my dad. But where was he? Why isn't he helping me? Next thing I know, everything went black and I woke up on the bench.