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Beth felt ready to race with her high school team at the Sectional Championships. She swam the 50 freestyle in a fast 1:13.40, a short-course American Record in her S3 classification. Or, it would have been, except the officials messed up and the meet was not sanctioned, despite Coach Peggy’s advance request.
The fastest swimmers at Sectionals advanced to the District Championships the following weekend. Someone with a physical disability like Beth had no chance of qualifying for the District meet. She planned to go to cheer on her teammates, but Peggy told her to bring her swimsuit and goggles.
Since the District meet definitely would be sanctioned, the rest of Beth’s high school team unanimously voted to give her one of their relay slots so she could set her first two short-course American Records. The girls on the relay team gave up their chance to win because of the substitution. In the locker room, I helped Beth into her swimsuit while she stressed about their sacrifice. She also thought her high school season had ended the week before.
It didn’t help when the meet announcer told everyone in the packed natatorium about her potential records before her relay started.
Beth entered the pool from the side and swam to her lane. Meanwhile, Peggy moved into position, stomach down on the deck with her head over the water. Peggy reached low to grab Beth’s feet and hold them to the starting wall, a legal start for a swimmer with limited hand function. Repeated trials had determined the intricate details of Beth’s optimum position to start each stroke. An arm straight or bent, trunk angled or supine, and the mechanics of floating motionless until the starting buzzer.
In the first leg of the 400 relay, Beth achieved her first two official short-course Paralympic S3 American Records, drawing enthusiastic applause from the large crowd.
However, with the added stress, her time in the 50 free clocked in nine seconds slower than the week before, and the 100 free at seventeen seconds slower. Beth never asked for recognition, but hearing her new American Records announced at school on Monday morning was a nice surprise.
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