I didn’t think I would cry.
We lined up together, all 10 of us seniors in alphabetical order. We were all wearing the lime green suits of our team and the Ranger green warm ups we have had since freshman year, unifying us even further than we already were as a friend group. As we watched the slideshow our parents had put together, we laughed at each other’s baby pictures, smiled as we saw ourselves in our awkward preteen years, and oohed and aahed at our friends’ senior photographs.
As we each were called forward, we walked to a junior of our choice, waiting for us with flowers to escort us to our parents. Almost each and every one was in tears upon walking us towards the beginning of our final home meet. To the side, the sophomores and freshmen were crying on the side of the pool. Above us, friends and spectators were getting misty eyed looking at all of the emotion. In the background, a parent announced each of our plans for the upcoming year and advice we had written for the younger girls to take with them through the rest of their time as a Lady Ranger.
Upon reaching my parents, my friend Erin engulfed me in a hug before releasing me to my parents. I didn’t realize until then that, between seeing all of our parents and junior friends in tears, tears were running down my face as well. My dad was choking up, and my mom cried as she hugged me, knowing this was symbolically the end of the sport that she and I had put a decade of time and emotion into. Looking at all of the other parents and seniors, people who had become another family to me, and seeing them cry as well sent me into sobs. As the presentation ended and even our announcer choked up, the seniors went into a bittersweet group hug full of tears and love, thanking each other for the support we had exchanged throughout our Ranger careers.
The meet itself went well, as we all swam our hearts out and dove to the best of our abilities. Our coaches were there for us after every race, and for the last meet of our careers at our home pool, we competed as we had so many times before. We stayed jubilant as always, and supported each other throughout the meet as we have all learned to do. We came out on top of Jenison High School, and at the end of our meet we prepared for an extremely emotional team dinner.
Walking into dinner, the atmosphere was unlike any other meal I had shared with my team. A table was laid out just for the 10 of us, covered in decorations and flowers; and we all got our food and settled in to eat. At each setting was a book of notes for each swimmer and diver, with a note from every underclassman expressing gratitude for the past four years (and often more) that we had been a friend to our younger teammates. Tears began to pour down each senior’s face as a few notes from old friends tugged at the heartstrings and we realized the reality of our situation. By the end of the meal, we were all up and about, hugging and laughing and talking about our futures. Leaving the pool felt no different than after any other meet; but deep down, I can honestly say I felt closure walking out to our cars with my gifts and notes from the team in hand.
As all of us seniors drove off and I reflected on the night and the time we have spent together, I don’t know why I didn’t think I would cry.