Forty minutes later, we sat on the pool deck as Coach wrapped up practice. “Great first day, girls. Now go home and get some rest. First cuts are on Friday.”
A lot of grumbling combined with excited chatter. The lanky bleached blonde who had been judging us all earlier raised her hand. “Hey Coach,” she said, “what’s up with the Allison Singer scholarship?”
“Thank you for asking that important question, Jordan.” Coach waited for us to stop talking.
Mel sat across from me and I mouthed, “What?”
She smiled back and mouthed, “Listen.”
“Allison Singer called me the other day,” Coach said. “She is very disappointed that no one has broken her record.”
“So does the challenge still stand?” Jordan asked.
“Oh yes.” Coach tried not to smile but failed. “And she tells me she’s had such an excellent year business-wise she’s increasing the scholarship.”
All around me, the girls sat in silence, some wearing expressions that showed they had no idea what Coach was talking about. Others leaned toward him, waiting on his every word. I was clueless and studied my nails. Whatever he was saying, it didn’t have anything to do with me.
“The scholarship is now at fifty thousand dollars.”
Last year’s champs broke out in a collective whoop. The rest of us looked at each other like dopes. What was going on?
The lanky blonde, Jordan, was the loudest. “No way!” she shouted. “Hear that Tati? Fifty grand.”
The tiny brunette sitting next to her ducked her head. “Wow, that’s a lot of money.”
“And you’re gonna get it,” Jordan said, “Right, Coach? I mean, she’s four and a half seconds from breaking the record. She’ll do it this year, won’t she?”
All eyes were on Tati, who blushed and shook her head. “Swimmers faster than me have tried and failed. I probably won’t make it either.”
“What kind of an attitude is that?” asked Jordan. “You’ve got to think positive, Tati.”
Coach stared at Tati. “She’s right,” he told her. “Be positive, Tatiana. You’re the best distance swimmer I’ve had in years. If anyone has a shot at breaking Allison Singer’s record, it’s you.”
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