Tonight was the end of an era.

Our daughter, Gabrielle, made the choice as a third grader to join the local swim team instead of playing softball.

Tonight, she saw the water for the last time as a competitor.

She missed out swimming in the youngest group (where you get ribbons!), and spent three years toiling with very little recognition. As one mom said, “That’s a real test of character. Most kids would have just rolled over and quit.” Not my daughter.

She continued to push herself to get better, and found that she had a natural ability at breast stroke. There were two very good breast strokers in the age group above her, so she watched and learned (not the best of role models, but you do what you can).

Freshman year of high school hit, and she stepped WAY out of her comfort zone, and swam for the local high school team. For most kids, this would mean driving maybe across town. For Gabrielle, it meant a 35 minute trip one way, practice, then return trip home. She was blessed with two tremendous mentors that year. Katy, from our school, was who Gabrielle rode with the entire year. We’d gotten to know Katy through the summer swim team, and she convinced Gabrielle to take the plunge (pun intended) to join up. Katy was a four year letter winner and state qualifier, and ended up swimming in college as well. Gabrielle was paired up with Taylor, a beast of a back stroker, and a sweetheart of a girl. Taylor was able to keep Gabrielle focused on the positives she had on the team, because at that point, Gabrielle was the slowest girl, period. Taylor helped her find her voice on the team.

I thought about Katy and Taylor tonight as we finished up the meet. We had a chance to see Katy at a fair (we show Brown Swiss with them) and saw Taylor last week at another meet. They are amazing girls and I believe that with their influence, Gabrielle did find her voice, and her place on the team.

As we drove off, I looked over at her, and remembered her last high school meet, where she realized that she wouldn’t be going on to the regional meet. She cried, which is pretty big for my daughter and was pretty heartbroken to be done. Tonight, there was a sense of “it’s over”, which made me a little bit sad. She’s going to Europe at the end of the week with a group of Iowa band and choir kids, and with that, will leave swimming behind. While I’m sad to see this part of her life end, I know that she’ll accomplish great things because of the things learned as a swimmer.

And as a dad, I can’t argue with that, even if it does make me a little misty-eyed.

Thanks for reading tonight. I do appreciate it. 🙂