On Thursday, February 9, 2012, four Clarke County High School swimmers embarked on a four hour journey to participate in the Virginia High School League’s Double and Single A State Swim Meet. Senior Ben Marshall and freshman Emily Deem both qualified for the meet based on their qualifying times in the 50-yard Freestyle event. Both swimmers also qualified for additional events with their performances in the Region B competitions on February 4. Senior Conor Mettenberg and junior Marylee Gowdy also qualified to swim in the state meet by their swims in Region B competition.
After a week of additional training, the four boarded a CCHS school bus at the end of the school day and began their journey. Swimmers are notorious for their tricks and gimmicks to cut their swim times and these four no less. There was discussion of “fast” suits and hair removal. Most of the group sported shorter haircuts in recent days.
The accomplishment of traveling to Christiansburg for the prestigious event was only the beginning of the challenge. While earning a spot was certainly a task in and of itself, it only afforded the swimmers a lane in the preliminaries. Unlike their meets to date, the state meet is actually a two-day event. Participation in Day Two is only available to the top sixteen finishers in each event on Day One. All CCHS swimmers were facing an uphill battle but they left prepared for the battle.
The four Clarke ‘warriors’ have distinctive personalities. Marshall exudes confidence and drive, fiercely competitive and an inspiring captain; Mettenberg is stoic and witty with a dedication and undying perseverance; Gowdy is a kind-hearted, dedicated and loyal constant inspiration and voice of encouragement for all; and Deem, young, humble, innocent but exceedingly focused and gifted in her athleticism. All four set out with good attitudes and acceptance of their glad fortunes in the season. Even knowing that they all may not earn the right to swim on Day Two, their attitudes and outlooks were positive.
All four should be hailed and lauded for their accomplishments even in the face of their adversities throughout the season. It is a mark of each of their individual excellence to have arrived for the journey at all.