By Ted Nelson, 11, Weybridge School, Weybridge, Vermont
The tent flew up in a flurry of movement. I hurled my sleeping bag and cooler to the ground and watched the rain making patterns on the pool's surface.
My mind kept flitting forward to the race, and I kept reminding myself where I was.
"O.K. Ted," I would say, "you're here, at the race, the valley championships."
As I lay on my sleeping bag, I tried to keep my mind on the book I was reading. Every time my mind skittered away, I would run over to the rankings hanging on the bath house wall. Every time I did this I would say to myself, "Just one more time Ted, one more look."
A voice suddenly blared over the loudspeaker, "Boys ten and under, twenty-five yard breaststroke, report to the bullpen." I walked over, not feeling the ground under my feet.
The next thing I knew, I was on the blocks and swimming for dear life. I felt like a machine, saying over and over, with every breath, "Win, win, win." I hit the end of the pool after what seemed an eternity. I was sure I had come in last. I clambered out of the water to have one last look at the pool. Then it hit me. The other people were still swimming! I was so happy I almost skipped over to the tent. The rankings said I was seeded second.
Time swept me up in a wave that kept telling me, "The first three places in the finals get a medal," again and again.
I barely heard the P.A. system blast out the race number before I was over at the bullpen. At the bullpen, time slowed to an interminably dragging pace. My feet felt like lead as I slowly carried my body over to the blocks. Everything was as if I was watching it in slow motion. I could hear people cheering but most clearly I heard a steady cheer coming from my team.
As I stepped on the blocks, I don't know why, but I was thinking, My parents will love me no matter what.
I flew off the block at a speed of a horse bursting from the gates. I kept thinking of my humiliation if I lost this race, the race. I saw someone pulling ahead of me and closed my eyes, not even bothering to think anymore. I hit the wall in my final plunge. I struck the wall, clambered out of the pool, and practically flew back to the tent.
I got the medal a little while later. I must have looked like a pouter pigeon, strutting around with my chest stuck out. But that experience was, and probably always will be for me, a definition of happiness.