March 3, 2009
From Feb. 18-21, a group of 21 Lady Vols competed with the best swimmers and divers in the Southeastern Conference. This being my first conference meet, I had no idea what to expect even if I had traveled a lot in previous years and competed in some big international meets. The upperclassmen tried to describe the feeling of competing at the conference championship to the freshmen, but they couldn't explain it and just told us that it was amazing.
Well, taking a step back from the meet, I now know what "amazing" means. The SEC Swimming & Diving Championships were nothing like any other meets that I've competed in. It has its own glamour and ambiance. It is prestigious and extremely competitive. We finished fourth overall behind Florida, Auburn and Georgia. We won two SEC titles, one silver and one bronze medal. We had lots of personal-best performances and event finalists. We performed with our hearts and souls. For a week, 21 girls from all around the world (USA, Czech Republic, England and Canada) bonded with coaches and fabulous staff members. Our team is proof that together we can do great things.
As a diver, I never really had the opportunity to spend time with the swimmers until the meet. I was able to learn a lot about swimming and got to know some of the girls better. Our team is fabulous and every single one of the girls on the team has become a sister to me. I respect them and they respect me. I think it's amazing that they can put a fast suit on in less than 30 minutes and they think it's awesome that I can throw myself off a 10-meter platform! When we all put our best in the team, the results are fantastic. The support you can get from a team is more than any other type of support you can get when you live far away from your family. To know that you can walk to the end of the tower (platform dive) and your whole team is with you makes you feel a lot taller and more confident. I'm sure that it's the same thing for the swimmers when they see a bunch of girls on the side of the pool yelling their lungs out. Knowing that their teammates' cheers will help them go faster must be an incredible sensation.
I had the time of my life on that trip and I would like to share one special moment. On Friday, I was competing in the platform diving event. I competed on the 1-meter and 3-meter boards on Wednesday and Thursday, but didn't make it to finals. Therefore Friday was my last chance to make an impact. The preliminaries started around noon and some of the girls were going to eat lunch, but most of them stayed and cheered for all five of my dives. I had a really good event and qualified for the finals. The finals were at night, around 8 p.m. I knew it was going to be a challenge because I'm not used to diving that late. I prepared myself during the afternoon. I danced with Jodie (McGroarty), who is also a diver and was my roommate for the trip, and I was really focused. During my warm up, Jamie Saffer was swimming the 100 breast final and she won! I got really excited, and, from that moment on, I knew nothing was going to hold me back. I finished warming up and ran to her swim-down lane to congratulate her. I had to touch her to pass the positive energy on! My final was about to start and a good part of the bleachers were filled with Lady Vols. They were all wearing t-shirts that said: "Let's Do This." For the whole event, seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen from Tennessee, plus the coaches and staff cheered for me. I had never felt that good on the 10-meter platform. Before every single dive I looked at the girls. Some were waving and others were blowing kisses in the air. Their smiles said it all; they were proud and believed in me. There was a connection between myself, 30 feet up, and the team. Every dive was solid and aggressive. I scored a personal best I had been trying to achieve since winter 2006 and finished fifth. The next morning I returned the favor by cheering for my teammates to make sure the conditions were perfect for them to swim fast!