The last time: a reflection

BY EDDY YU

Facing elimination, four girls, water dripping from their bodies, clutched each other in agony as they waited for their swim relay score to go up. Although it was only a couple seconds, it seemed to be forever. Suddenly the scores were up. 1:41:33, enough to qualify for states. Captain and senior Kelly Gao was one of the four swimmers along with Steph Erickson, Olivia Bigge, and Belen Marriaga“ It didn’t even register at first, but then Steph gasped and whipped around and Olivia screamed so loudly I could have sworn glass shattered haha. To say happiness knocked me over like a tsunami would have been an understatement.” Kelly Gao has been swimming for ten years and was just looking to have one last great swim representing Guilderville (Guilderland and Voorheesville combine for swimming). “After screaming our heads off and hugging each other and celebrating like maniacs on the pool deck, it hit me that I was actually going to return to states this year, and this time with 3 incredible teammates whom I’ve seen struggle in practice and work their hardest every afternoon. I was beyond ecstatic, so thankful to them and so relieved that this was not my last race after all.”

Every athlete wants to do well. Faced with elimination, they desire more than anything to keep going and play one more time. For some, then comes sooner than others. When you love the game so much, no matter what sport it is, the end always comes with sentimental feelings. Especially if you’re a senior and have played the game so long. Remember how way back in 7th grade, you were scared and trying out for the first time for the sport. Remembering the wins and the losses. Remembering the great times you’ve had, and the not so great times. It all comes rushing back once your last game for Guilderland High School ends. The countless hours of practice, the endless preparation, the numerous injuries and hiccups along the way. All this emotion. For some it becomes overwhelming. Dreams of a sectional championship ended. Dreams of going all the way dashed. Not having the chance to do it again. There’s nothing weak about an athlete crying at the end. When something becomes so important to you, when it becomes a major part of your life, when it becomes the thing that you can’t imagine living without, it’s hard to admit that it’s over.

If you know it’s your last match, game, or race, you have time to mentally prepare for it. You go through that last time, trying to savor everything that is happening. When it’s over, you may laugh or you may cry but whether you realize it or not, for the past few weeks you have been preparing yourself for this moment. Preparing to ease the flood of emotions that comes with reaching the end of the road you may have started six years ago, but it’s always worse when the end comes unexpectedly.

Getting a chance to play for a sectionals championship is always fun and exciting, but only one team comes out on top. For the rest, heartbreak. At the start of that fatal game, you’re pumped. You believe that you can win. Of course, the prospect of losing has brushed your mind but only briefly, and you know there’s always that chance, no matter how good the other team is, that you’ll walk away with the victory. As time winds down and the score isn’t in your favor, you began to slightly panic on the inside. You play harder. You run like you’ve never run before. You try to do whatever it takes to live to play another day, but sometimes, it just isn’t enough. For some, when the final whistle blows and it’s all over, they feel like they’ve been punched in the gut. The breath is just knocked out of them. They can’t breathe. Some take it better than others. They walk it off, they may look like they’re alright on the outside, but there’s a pit in their stomach. It’s tough when doing something you love so much ends. Tough when you realize that playing for the school that shaped you and molded you is over. “Was the worst feeling in the world, the only thing that was going through my mind was, this is my last time on a high school soccer field,” said Parker Carmichael, senior goalkeeper of the varsity soccer team.

Eventually, however, you move on. Whether it’s preparing to play for college or just keeping up with school work, the pain slowly fades, and it’s replaced with memories. Memories that will stay with you forever. Memories of doing what you love with your teammates. Teammates that have become like family to you.

For the underclassman, for the season to end isn’t fun, but you’re already thinking about next year–sad that it’s over but excited that you’ll get a chance to play again. Here’s Parker’s words of wisdom for GHS athletes. “Play every game like its your last because it goes by quick.” Kelly Gao’s advice goes beyond the individual.“Train for your teammates, for that fabulous feeling when your team meets its goal. Work hard for others, and they will work hard for you. Together, and only together, can everyone achieve far beyond what one person, no matter how ambitious, can achieve alone.”

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