The three and a half month period leading up to SAISA consisted of grueling training sessions, team bonding experiences, and much stress regarding the competition. From late October up until the competition on February 12th, the team participated in three mandatory practices per week (although many of us came in on mornings and afternoons to practice our events), and when the competition finally came, we felt as ready as we could be. Our mindset was positive but cautious, as we had lost several of last year’s top athletes and our primary competition, TAISM (The American International School of Muscat) was stronger than ever. If we wanted to defend our title, we would have to be on our A-game, performing as well as we could in every single one of our events.
The competition’s opening ceremony was short but sweet (likely due to the fact that all of the athletes were eagerly anticipating the start of the competition) and consisted of a traditional Indian musical performance, lighting of the traditional SAISA lamp (pictured above), and the reading of the SAISA oath. After these brief ceremonial competition-openers, our distance runners warmed up for the 1500 and the meet began.
Day one was extremely strong for me and after my first event of the day (the 100m heats) I was seeded third for finals. After a lunch that consisted of small quantities of high-carb and high-sugar foods, I began my hour-long warmup for the 100-meter finals. As the third seed, I was in the second lane with my main competition being an ACS runner in lane three (seeded first) and a TAISM runner in lane four (seeded just above me in second). After some accelerations, we settled into our blocks and prepared for the gun. As we started, I remember pulling out in front at the start and keeping the lead for about 30 meters, after which I was passed by lanes three and four. I immediately kicked into a higher gear and thus began the battle for second place. In the last ten meters, we were neck-and-neck, and I threw myself into a final lean towards the finish line. It worked. I placed second and, more importantly, beat out TAISM to get us the most points possible. Immediately after the 100 was the 4×400-meter relay, in which I would run the anchor leg against the same two runners that I had just competed with. When I got the baton, we were in fifth place; about five meters behind AISC (the host school) and ten meters behind TAISM. As I took off, I knew that I would need to run my fastest 400 ever if I was going to catch either team. About 50 meters in, I drew even with AISC’s runner and passed him quickly. The only thing that stood between my team and a medal was TAISM’s runner. I sprinted up alongside him and passed him with about 200 meters left in the race. After that, it was a battle to take the lead. At the finish, I felt exactly as I had in the 100-meter race. He dove and I leaned, and we beat them by 0.02 seconds. Although we had done all we could to prevent falling behind in the team competition, TAISM was ahead at the end of the day by 30 points.
Day two of the competition had my final individual race – the 200-meter sprint. In comparison to my 100, my 200 is significantly weaker. Thus, I wasn’t expecting to medal but I was still prepared to do my absolute best. My heat was first and I was in lane four, running against a personal rival from AISD (Dhaka) with whom I had competed for a number of years. The prelims were unremarkable, and he beat me in the last few meters of the race. I just made finals; seeded fifth overall, and that was all that mattered. In between the two races, though, I would have my first field event: the shot put. Shot put was one of my stronger events, and I expected a medal (not gold, though, because I was competing against Sharukh Penker, undoubtedly the biggest person at the competition, both taller than me and heavier by probably 30-40 pounds. Thus, it was a competition for second between me and a friend from ACS (in which he ultimately bested me by about 15 centimeters). I settled for third place and focused on my final race of the day.
The 200-meter finals were almost as exciting as the 100 finals, with all six of us with half a second of each other. I was able to beat my Dhaka-based rival and claim fourth place with a tenth-of-a-second improvement on my time from prelims. Thus concluded the second day, and, unfortunately, we remained behind TAISM in the total point count (albeit by a smaller margin).
In my final day of competition, I knew that I needed to step up my game if we were going to win, and in my first event of the day – discus – I did just that. I was once again competing against Sharukh and did not expect to win at all. After my first three throws, I was seeded fourth going into finals. I began to settle into a rhythm, as I had a few good throws already and I knew that relaxation and consistency would be the main factors in moving up to second or third. My first throw in finals was close to 28 meters but was unfortunately out of bounds. My second was the same distance, this time legal, and I moved up to second place. After that, I knew that I would be able to overtake Sharukh. He had been inconsistent for the whole competition and, just to get in his head a little, I let him know that I was coming for him. Stepping into the cage for the last time, I looked out upon the field and picked a tree in the distance to throw towards. I spun and unleashed the discus for a throw of 32.8 meters, which catapulted me 30 centimeters in front of Sharukh for first place. He had one final throw left, but he was shaky, and threw a 31 to give me my first individual SAISA gold medal.
The long jump was another uneventful competition, with me placing fourth overall. The main event of the evening was the 4×100 meter relay. The first few relays were weak for us, and I could feel the win slipping away. I was running the second leg, which placed me against many of the fields weaker runners, exactly how I liked it. When I got the baton, we were in fifth place by about 5 meters. When I handed it off, we were in first by the same margin. After equally strong legs from our third and anchor legs, we came away with the relay win. But, with TAISM in second, it wouldn’t be enough.
The closing ceremony confirmed my fears. We had lost for the first time in four years by 2/3 of a point. It was the closest finish in SAISA history.
I have mixed feelings about the outcome of the season. Although I personally performed better than I have ever before, the team didn’t get the win, which was far more important to me than my individual success. Ultimately, I must accept the loss and move on, but I am committed to working even harder for next year in order to set the team up for one more win in my senior year. I can’t wait for the comeback season, and I can’t wait to win again.
CAS Goals Reflection
As I mentioned in my CAS goals post, even before swimming, I competed internationally in cross country and track and field events. This year I set high goals for myself, and I was, fortunately, able to achieve many of them. I hoped to bring home four individual medals (which I did) and two relay medals (which I also did). I also was able o set personal bests in all of my events and to stay healthy in order to compete at the highest level possible throughout this season. the one goal I wasn’t able to achieve, however, was the overall team win, and that stung especially hard.
Learning Outcome Reflection
- Identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
- As usual, involvement in a sports-related activity has allowed me to identify my skills and develop areas for growth. I am strong in most of my events, but I need to improve in all of them if I want to go for gold in any of them next year.
- Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
- The season was certainly a challenge, and I was able to develop a myriad of skills throughout it that I did not previously have. Firstly, I was given eh opportunity to lead the team (something which I had never before experienced) as a captain, which allowed me to develop my leadership skills. Furthermore, I was able to develop my athletic skills throughout the year which culminated in a great performance at the SAISA competition.
- Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experience
- Commitment and perseverance was a cornerstone of the season for me, as I showed up to all of the practices with a special commitment to performing as well as I could and worked as hard as possible throughout the season in order to set myself and my team up as well as possible for the competition.