Think about imagining a moment, being inspired by the concept of that moment, getting ready for the moment physically, mentally and emotionally, being so close to that moment that you could almost reach out and touch it, and then having that moment pulled out from under you.
Sports is 90 percent preparation and ten percent performance. And during this time of the COVID-19 crisis, sports is 100 percent disappointment.
Recently, what was supposed to be Logan Smith’s most triumphant moment became the most disappointing moment in his young life. Smith is a talented and highly competitive, sophomore student-athlete at Cedar Crest, in the under-appreciated sport of swimming.
Last month, Smith was very much in line for a high – should read ‘metallic’ – and rare medal at the PIAA Class AAA Swimming Championships at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium, before the coronavirus pandemic pulled the plug on him.
“It was this crushing feeling, because my high school season was over,” said Smith. “It was a very disappointing feeling for me. It was like I didn’t get to finish what I started. I was completely stripped from hours spent in the water and the time I had spent training.
“It doesn’t take away from my season,” Smith continued. “It’s a disappointing aspect of it. I worked to stand on the podium at high-school states. I wanted to make my school and my family proud, and I didn’t get that opportunity.”
On Thursday, March 12th, during the state swimming championships at Bucknell, Smith had just swam his personal-best time of 55.98 in the preliminaries of his specialty, the 100-meter breaststroke. He was preparing for the final race in that event later in the day – where he was seeded third – when word came that the PIAA had suspended the meet because of safety concerns caused by COVID-19.
“I got to the finals,” said Smith. “After the preliminaries, I went back to the hotel to get ready and I found out it was cancelled. I went back to the pool and everyone was trying to figure out what was going on. When I swam in the preliminaries, I was all excited. I was happy. But then we started seeing posts, and someone texted me.
“Yes, I genuinely understand why they made the decision,” continued Smith. “For the well being of people. But as a competitor, you work an entire season for that moment, and then it’s taken away from you. It’s gone. But it’s better for everyone. For me, you never know what tomorrow will bring.”
When the PIAA first suspended the completion of the state meet, Smith held out hope that it would be resumed at some point in the future. But that hope took a hit when Governor Tom Wolf lengthened the physical closure of the state’s public school districts two weeks later.
On Thursday, April 9th, the PIAA announced the cancellation of the remainder of the winter scholastic sports season.
“It’s a tough question,” said Smith, when asked what the result of the state final in the Class AAA 100-meter breaststroke would’ve been. “Swimming is a sport where everything has to go right. It’s hard to try to predict. What I would’ve liked to happen was to hold that third seeding or go up a ranking, and lower my time. I really wanted it to end with an ‘Aww’ moment.
“Unfortunately, there was no way for me to win that race physically,” added Smith. “The first seed (Upper St. Clair junior Josh Matheny, the state record holder in the 100 breastroke) was an amazing athlete. But I thought I could’ve moved up to second. Ultimately, my goal is to get there and stand on that first-place position. But this year, there was no physical way that was going to happen.”
On Saturday, February 29th at Cumberland Valley High School, Smith captured the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke at the PIAA District Three Class AAA Swimming Championships, in a time of 56.42. Earlier in the winter, Smith had also copped gold in the 100 breaststroke at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Swim Championships, with a time of 56.65.
As his season progressed, Smith consistenly shaved time off his performances.
“I felt I had a pretty good season,” said Smith. “For me personally, I felt like my in-season and postseason went very well. Going into the the year, I had a goal of setting a certain time. I was mainly thinking about training and what I had to do to achieve my goal.
“The breaststroke is my best stroke, but I don’t think of myself as a breaststroker,” Smith added. “I think of myself as an IMer. I think of myself as a well-rounded swimmer. It’s (the breaststroke being his best stroke) been that way for a little while. When I first started, it was not. The breaststroke just started to become the stroke I stand out in.”
Smith broke onto the scholastic swimming scene and made a big splash last year, winning the District Three Class AAA 100 breaststroke gold medal as a freshman. He finished ninth in the event at the 2019 PIAA Swimming Championships.
“I’m grateful for that season,” said Smith. “What I did put some pressure on me for this season. I had eyes on me from different athletes.
“I started swimming when I was six, at the Hummelstown Swim Club,” continued Smith. “My mom was a swimmer, but originally she didn’t want us to be swimmers. I started swimming and I became passionate about it. When I was younger, it brought me joy, and I wanted to keep that joy in my life.”
Over the past decade, Smith has improved and really come into his own as a competitor. The key to his success is really no secret.
“The last ten years has definitely been long and I’ve done lots of training,” said Smith. “I’ve made some tough sacrifices. It’s been a long hard road to get where I am. I want to keep it going. My training has become a lot more serious. I just want to have more opportunities when I grow up.
“A very good amount of swimming is hard work,” Smith continued. “About 80 percent of it is hard work and practice, practice, practice. I hope to eventually make it to the Olympics. Next year, I hope to make it to the (Olympic) trials. It’s something I feel that, if I put my mind to it, hopefully one day I can achieve it.”
If Smith does reach his ultimate goal, it won’t be under the bright lights of media-generated recognition. Swimming is one of those scholastic sports that constantly flies under the radar.
“I don’t feel that it necessarily does get the recognition it deserves,” said Smith. “Swimming is a sport that takes time and dedication. I think some people see it as a push-over sport. Some people don’t look at us as true athletes or at swimming like it’s a true sport.
“At Cedar Crest, we’re not a big swim team, so we don’t get a lot of publicity,” concluded Smith. “We put in a lot of hours and make a lot of sacrifices. It’s just one of those things you’re proud of. It’s something you’d like to see get out there more.”
Fortunately for Smith, he will have many moments in the future.