Say you’re a good high school female swimmer in the Aurora, Co. area. You specialize in… hmm, let’s say the backstroke. Say you’re a senior – what has been probably nearly an entire life of swimming culminates with this year. Your year. You’re feeling good. You’ve been working hard, keeping in shape. You’re ready to take on everyone and maybe even win some area championships while you’re at it and OH COME ON:
It’s confirmed: Missy Franklin, four-time Olympic gold medalist, will swim for her Regis Jesuit High School team this winter.
And there goes that dream. There is hope for opponents, actually – Franklin’s going to swim an abbreviated schedule, so most of Regis Jesuit’s opponents won’t have to deal with her. But in a way, that makes us feel worse for the poor kids Franklin’s going to destroy: of all the lousy luck, their meet just happens to fall on one of the days Franklin competes.
Well… feel bad for some of the kids Franklin’s going to destroy, is more accurate. Because here’s an alternate scenario to the one we proposed before: say you’re an average high school swimmer in the Aurora, Co. area. You also specialize in the backstroke. You enjoy swimming, you put the work in to be as good as you can… but you’re not one of the best. You’ve accepted this. You have your good days and your not-so-good days, and of course you always want to do well, but Franklin or no Franklin, you’re not generally a threat to win any big race.
So that leaves you with two options: 1) get beaten by good high schoolers moderately better than you, or 2) get obliterated by someone on track to become a living legend in the sport. If I belonged to the “adequate but ultimately undistinguished swimmer” category, I’m choosing the second option. And if you’re not a senior, and therefore have non-Franklin-impeded years in the pool to look forward to? It’s no contest. That’s a great story to be able to pull out later: you swam against Missy Franklin. No one’s going to care that you didn’t win. Hell, your friends will probably worship you if you even come close to matching her time.
None of this, by the way, is to say that Franklin shouldn’t be able to swim in high school. The cost of swimming against Franklin as an overwhelmed high schooler is losing a race. The cost of Franklin preserving her amateur status so she could first swim this year, and then in college? Seven figures. For going to those lengths, let her shove this in every opponent’s face before every race. Still, though, we feel a bit for those opponents she’s going to turn into so much refuse in her wake… at least until they’re able to look back on it and realize that honestly, it was the coolest blowout loss of their lives.
Getty photo, by Quinn Rooney