I have never been a strong swimmer. My aquatic career came to a very abrupt halt during my preteen years when I decided that struggling to stay afloat in deep water was simply not for me, regardless of how many flotation devices I used (not that it was really much of a career at all). In my youth I would often envision myself as Michael Phelps when I entered a body of water which, looking back on it, would have been very accurate if Michael Phelps had been a short, scrawny 11-year-old who had more business playing linebacker in the NFL than in the water. Because of all this, I thought it would only be appropriate to hit the pool and challenge Kalamazoo swimmer Cam Wasko ‘15 to a race.
Cam has enjoyed a storied career at Kalamazoo College as he completed his senior season this past weekend when the Hornets placed second in the MIAA Championship. Cam finished in an outstanding fifth place in his top stroke, the 200-yard backstroke, at the Championships with a time of 1:56.27. He also contributed to the Hornet’s 200-yard freestyle relay MIAA championship as well as a third place finish in the 400-yard relay. While all these flashy stats may be impressive, I felt as if I would surprise myself in this challenge and achieve a close result, despite my ineptitude in the water. It was a feeling that did not last very long.
Cam and I squared off in the K College Natatorium, which I had completely forgot existed until Cam reminded me that we do, in fact, have a pool. The race would be a 50-yard sprint (down-and-back) with butterfly on the way down, and Cam’s favored backstroke on the way back. As we climbed atop the starting blocks, Cam in his speedo and Kalamazoo swimming cap, me in my borrowed goggles and Hawaiian swim trunks that used to be my dad’s, I felt some of my old, pool-related insecurities began to resurface again. All I could think about in that moment was about all the things that I would do for a life jacket.
We took off and began the first length of our race. As Cam entered the water gracefully, I took a face-full of water that nearly knocked my goggles off my face. I struggled through the butterfly stroke but as I reached the turn, I felt as if I might at least have a chance to salvage some dignity. Not at all the case.
As I began the backstroke, I peaked up to check Cam’s position and saw him resting on the opposite wall, having already completed the race, and laughing hysterically at me. Although I was no natural in the water, I had completely underestimated how fast Cam was. At least I must have set a pool record for the first swimmer to be lapped in a 50-yard race.
Cam was a very good sport about his victory, offering words of encouragement and praising my effort and heart. The fact of the matter is that by the time I finished, I was less concerned about the humiliation I had suffered and more concerned about the aching throughout my lungs and entire body for that matter. Although I may have lost my matchup with Cam, I am just thankful that my life does not involve waking up at 5:30 and swimming over ten times the distance of the race I had just swam.