Junior Olympic Championships at Eppley Recreation Center
Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and many other legendary world-record holding Olympian swimmers must have started somewhere before they emerged in the spotlight. On the journey to the world championship, they must have competed in numerous swim meets at their local pools. Among all these pools that witnessed the growth of these rising stars, one aquatic center with well-deserved attention is the Eppley Recreation Center located at College Park, in Maryland.
Driving a car deep through the College Park campus, you will see a big “M” formed by vibrant yellow flowers in the middle of a traffic circle. On the right side of the traffic circle, a big, glassy building, the recreation center, loomed in front of us. Its exterior design was modern and state of art. Inside the recreation center, the indoor swimming complex hosts large-scale swim meets and diving competitions.
This past weekend, the Junior Olympic swim meet for regional swimmers was held in this aquatic center. Hundreds of young swimmers in the Potomac Valley region in Maryland gathered to compete against one another. I was lucky enough to swim two events, the freestyle and the backstroke in the meet. Although the room was massive, all the swimmers still crowded the space. Whistles, cheers, and whoops added to the excitement and tension. At the swim meet that day, I could tell the race was testing not only athletes’ physical abilities, but their psychological and mental strengths as well.
I am definitely not a top swimmer, but I was honored to participate in the swim meet among other swimmers. I recall, as I stepped onto the block, I glanced at the swimmers in my heat, seeing determination and motivation in their eyes, and knowing that I was swimming and competing with future Olympians.