Upon a weekday morning somewhere between Tuesday and Thursday, the three of us walked from the showers to the Richfield Middle School pool. Patrick, Bryce and I begrudgingly made a slow strut to the damn cold pool for a morning swim practice at an ungodly hour only stock brokers, coffee shop openers, and swimmers were privy to suffer.
It was my first morning practice in months, so I didn’t mind the extreme circumstances. However, for Patrick and Bryce, they had been attending morning practices the entire season. How they managed to fit school and a social life into a season full of two-a-days was beyond me. I didn’t have the threshold to love the sport and endure 6am practices at the same time.
The sun still rising, the city still asleep, Patrick stood at the edge of the pool- a tall, lanky sophomore with a gift to gab and a butterfly stroke to merit a state top-10 ranking, he made the toughest practice look easy. “Hey, Bryce. Know why swimming sucks more than every other sport?” he said while snapping his goggles into place. Bryce slugged at the edge of the pool, stretching/stalling before jumping in. “No, I don’t know why” Bryce returned. “Because you don’t have to jump into a cold pool at 6 in the morning” Patrick punchlined, sprung up from the edge of the pool and cannonballed into the deep end.
Whatever pain and patience the pool asked of us, we gave it. We swam for the city of Minneapolis that year, representing South High School. We were the last great swimmers the city would ever see, and a year removed from the greatest swim team (1998 – 1999 Minneapolis South H.S.) to ever compete for Minneapolis. It was the final year before all the public high schools would be collectively mashed closer and closer to one another until it was one swim team amongst all the schools. This was large in part due to the school board’s lack of funding, ability to recognize athletics as a prominent aspect of education, and overall inability to perform their job... but I digress.
Pushing and pulling through a 3000yd+ practice, Patrick may have joked on the deck, but his actions spoke differently in the pool. He and Bryce seemed to be somewhat of training partners throughout that final swim season. The monotony of staring at a straight, tiled line on the bottom of a pool can make a modern man go insane. We leaned and fell upon each other for the inspiration to keep competing, more than we would admit then. Without Bryce or Patrick for my senior season, I don’t believe I would’ve ever qualified for the state meet that year. They set a bar and example beyond words or school pride.
Almost a decade later, 2010, Patrick passed away for circumstances unknown to me. I can’t say I was close friends or even a strong acquaintance to him, but there was a time we were teammates… and that was all it took to reduce me to a puddle of salty tears and uncontrollable weeping when I received the news of his death.
It’s 2014, and I still miss him… as much I miss the comradery and foundation of swimming with your best friends and teammates for seasons at a time.