February 27, 2013

My Championship Experience - Men's Swimming & Diving Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships. 

Oakland senior Pat Richardson's championship experience at the 2013 Summit League Swimming & Diving Championships:
The Team. The Tradition. The Excellence.

This motto is displayed in Oakland’s natatorium, where the 2013 Summit League Championships have just concluded. This past weekend provided a chance for me to experience what those words truly mean. Every day of competition encapsulated what it meant for me to be a Golden Grizzly competing in The Summit League.

The start of the championship meet always begins with the 200 medley, and 800 free relays, which is where the energy of the meet is established. The energy of the room was at a frenzy, a roar of cheers and hands clapping. OU’s relays are what we pride ourselves on, and I was proud to be able to swim on the B 200 relay. I anchored the end of the relay, and we won the exhibition heat. Then the scoring relays walked out, which is not as simple as it sounds. All of the top relays from every school strutted out of the ready room to the song ‘Thrift Shop’, the volume of the room deafening. Then a few of my teammates threw baby powder in the air for our relay, in tribute to Lebron James pre-game ritual. The actual race itself was amazing, Oakland’s relay came close to beating our own record, which was set back when full-body technical suits were still legal. (Swimmers understand this means that the swims are starting to get crazy fast again.) This level of energy remained throughout the rest of the meet, never letting down and never subsiding. The swims fueled the enthusiasm on deck, and vice versa.

The upperclassmen led the cheers all throughout the championship, the teams responding with passion. Good and bad swims were greeted by support from teammates. I missed out on breaking two goals of mine, but my team was there to motivate me on to the next race. And my experience was shared by all on the Oakland bench and unrelenting support from my coaches and colleagues.  

Now our swimmers pride ourselves on being able to perform under pressure, and that was never more true than this weekend. A plethora of NCAA ‘B’ cuts were achieved by my teammates, and one is now swimming in the NCAA Championships event. Every race was hard-fought, and mind-blowing. My favorite swims to watch were that of Amr El Sayed, who proceeded to swim out of his mind, shattering records in every race he swam. I may never be at a swim meet where so much energy and effort was rewarded.

I was asked to write about my experiences at the Championship meet, but obviously there is nothing I could ever write to gain the same feeling. The things I will always remember, though, are the simple things. The focus of the swimmers in the warm-up sessions, the energy and enthusiasm of every team, and the feeling of finally finishing my last swim. Bittersweet.

I mentioned our motto. The Team. The Tradition. The Excellence. The team never once let me down, always supporting each other like a family. Our tradition of rising to the occasion, and meeting every obstacle, was what let me get through an emotional meet. Both of those things leading to the excellence in which I was able to be a part of for the past four years. An excellence of commitment to the sport, and to the program.

-Pat Richardson

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s and Women's Indoor Track & Field Championships and throughout the 2012-13 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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