It’s 4:12 a.m. The stillness of the early morning is interrupted by the buzzing of an alarm. It shrieks and buzzes three times before I can leap up from by warm bed and turn it off.
After mumbling about how horrible life is, I spring into action. I brush my teeth and grab the three bags I packed last night. My equipment bag, a bag of clothes and my swim bag.
I make a protein shake and grab a cup of apple sauce.
I leave my house by 4:26 a.m.
I pick up sophomore Chris Hearl. We begin our 30-minute drive to the Roeland Park Sports Dome.
It is silent, besides the blaring radio. I’m not a morning person — talking is strictly prohibited.
At 5 a.m., practice has started. The water is beyond freezing. We swim 5,000-6,000 yards.
At 6:50 a.m., I begin my journey from Roeland Park to the Blue Valley CAPS building. It is a race to get to CAPS before 7:30.
The rest of my day is a blur. I usually struggle to stay awake. It is a fierce battle, one that I usually lose.
At 2:50 p.m., I leave school to go home only to grab my swim bags and pick up Chris for another drive to Roeland Park.
I get home around 8 p.m., completely exhausted, only to look at the intimidating pile of homework that awaits me.
By 11:30 p.m., I’m done and passed out in bed.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday: Double practice.
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday: Single practice.
Every day I tear my body down, working to get to the next level.
Because of my commitment I’ve missed the normal high school activities.
Friday night football games? Fat chance I’ll make it back from practice before the second half.
Clubs after school? Yeah right, walking in late to practice because of a club is not an acceptable excuse.
School dances? I’ve missed several because of out-of-town swim meets.
But I wouldn’t change a thing. Swimming means more to me than almost anything.
The schedule that has consumed my life for four years has molded me into the person I am now.
I know I’m dedicated to what I do. I know if there is a hurdle, I can get over it. From all the mental breakdowns, swimming taught me strength.
Strength I could never learn watching a football game. Strength I could never learn tottering around on high heels during a school dance.
It helped me look beyond the Homecoming Bonfire I couldn’t go to because of practice.
Now I get to compete at the Division I level of college athletics.
My dreams are coming true because of swimming.
I learned that high school won’t be the best four years of my life.
Hopefully, it is far from it.