–by Matthew Smith–
It was 6:00 pm on a Saturday evening, and for many hundreds of spectators and athletes in attendance, the Phoenix Pool was about to say farewell in the most exciting fashion. It was the closing event of SEASAC Senior Swimming 2019—the boys 4×100 freestyle relay. At Mr. Tim Pettine’s booming instructions and the sound of the official’s whistle to prepare for the imminent race, a hush came over the pool deck. I’m talking eerie ‘pin-drop’ silence. The lead-off swimmers for each relay team climbed the blocks and positioned themselves for the start, with nothing but victory in mind. Quiet continued as the swimmers took their final breaths before the plunge.
Then the spine-tingling silence that had engulfed the SEASAC pool deck for half-a-minute was suddenly replaced by a thunderous roar from the crowd as the swimmers leaped off the blocks like wolves after wounded prey. Over the next few minutes, deafening cheers, screams, and cries bellowed from the bleachers, as one by one, the swimmers dived, streamlined, muscled, kicked, turned, pushed, and pulled their way to the finish. It was a thrilling way to bring this wonderful meet to a close, and a fitting exit for the many senior swimmers who were saying goodbye to SEASAC swimming for the last time.
Looking back on the two-day meet, I can honestly say that we successfully met our goals as the host school. We had begun the SEASAC swimming journey almost 12 months prior, once RIS learned that we would be hosting. From that moment on, many months of meticulous planning, by both the Athletic Department and the Aquatics team, followed. All the long hours of organizing, purchasing, scheduling, preparing, and laboring paid off in spades once the competition began.
The championship got underway on Thursday, February 28th, when more than 250 swimmers and coaches from SEASAC-member schools began arriving in Bangkok. The RIS Student Athletic Council, which consists of our finest student representatives, did a wonderful job greeting and escorting each arriving school from the airport to the gorgeous Grand Fourwings Convention Hotel, which would be the swim teams’ home away from home for the weekend.
A first for SEASAC swim meets, the opening morning of the competition held a very special surprise for the student athletes. With the help of the entire RIS middle and elementary school population, an exciting “athlete parade” welcomed all the swimmers to RIS in a way they wouldn’t forget anytime soon. Each elementary school class had “adopted” a school, ensuring a continuous roar of support for each team that entered the pool deck. It goes without saying that they saved the loudest cheer for the end when the mighty RIS Phoenix Swim Team strolled on deck. For the RIS swimmers, they will undoubtedly remember that moment for the rest of their lives.
Once the parade and welcoming ceremony were completed, it was time to get down to business. Throughout both days of the competition some of the most exciting races for the 2018–2019 season were on show for all to see at the Phoenix Pool, and our now famous MC, Mr. Tim Pettine, made sure to add as much spice as possible for each and every event. Swimmers were blistering the pool, with over one-third of the individual and relay events securing new record times. However, I must say that when I look back on SEASAC Swimming 2019, it wasn’t the gold–medal winning relay teams or the record-breaking individual swimmers that will be etched into my memory for years to come. Instead, it will be the look of excitement that each swimmer, coach, and spectator carried with them for the entirety of the championship. It is an honor to host such a prestigious event, and I am proud that RIS could provide so many memorable moments for these young student athletes to carry with them in the years ahead.
Special thanks must go to Mr. Todd Parham (RIS Athletic Director) and Ms. Joei Khaosa-ard (Athletics Director Assistant) for the long hours they put in organizing such an amazing event. From the moment the teams disembarked their planes on Thursday to the final goodbyes as they left the hotel on Sunday, Mr. Todd and Ms. Joei made sure each swimmer and coach was well taken care of. I would also like to recognize the efforts of the entire aquatics team. RIS owes you an enormous amount of gratitude for making sure the event went so smoothly. There were hundreds of intricate details that made this meet a success, from the marshaling to the equipment set-up to ongoing maintenance. Without your unwavering support, SEASAC Swimming 2019 would not have been such a huge success. Phoenix pride!