Celebrating the Seniors with Smiles

By: Caroline Hamp ’15

Senior Caroline Hamp

Senior Caroline Hamp

It’s cliché to say that our Senior Meet was bittersweet, but I am here to tell you that bittersweet is exactly what it was – bitter to think that my time as a collegiate athlete is coming to a close, but sweet to be able to share those four years with an incredible team. The six seniors decided to use our Senior Meet to celebrate the last four years instead of dreading the inevitable end. It would be easy for me to get sappy and sentimental, but it is even easier to laugh about all the ridiculous hilarity the team has thrown at us. Don’t worry, the sweet unquestionably outweighs the bitter.

This past Saturday, our Senior Meet proceeded as following: a quick blurb about each of the seniors and their achievements; a line of hugs, high-fives, and slightly too-inappropriate butt-slaps; a bouquet of flowers and a framed picture of the six of us swimming our final lap of training trip; and a tear here or there, but mostly just wide smiles spreading from ear to ear.

The stands were more full than I’d seen them all year; 24 encouraged other sport teams to support us, a handful of swimming alumni visited for the day, and the senior parents were cheering even louder than usual. Despite all of the extra excitement, when the national anthem signaled the start of the meet, it was business as usual. Every meet, no matter how strong the competition or how large the crowd, is ultimately the same, with the same end goal in mind: to swim fast. And fast we swam. The first event set the tone of the entire meet as our women’s 400 Medley relay broke the pool record and the crowd went wild.

The meet continued in fast-paced fashion, and I almost forgot that this meet was anything different from the norm, that it was supposed to be something special. I swam my normal events (and I swam them fairly mediocre to be honest), and I fell into the normal routine of cheer, warm-up, swim, repeat. I touched the wall on my last race ever in the Cy Twombly pool and felt no sudden emotional upheaval. Instead, I felt the usual exhaustion and difficulty breathing that comes with finishing a race.

It wasn’t until almost a half hour later, as the meet came to a close, that an underclassman teammate asked, “So how does it feel to be done?” and that’s when it hit me. I will never have the opportunity to race in this atmosphere – with this loud, enthusiastic team and under the watch of the best (and most observant) coaches – ever again, but as I look back on the past four years, I couldn’t have asked for a better Senior Meet. It was a meet just like any other, but then again, every meet is a little bit extraordinary simply because I get to share those moments with the best teammates and coaches a collegiate athlete could ask for.

And it’s not over. We still get to hop in the pool every day for practice for three more weeks. We still get to race VMI and Ferrum at our meet at VMI this weekend. And of course, there is always ODACs. The most magical time of year is just around the corner, and I can’t wait to see where our last conference meet takes us.

Up Next: The Sports Information Office will follow first-year Noah Schammel to give an inside look into a day in the life of a W&L swimmer.

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