The concourse that winds through the SAGU’s Sheaffer and Garrison Wellness centers, usually bustling with student activity, was like a ghost town yet to rustle itself from slumber.
All except for Waxahachie High School swim team’s usual suspects, that is.
The team wrapped up its last practice of the season at 7 a.m. Thursday at SAGU’s Garrison Wellness Center before junior Levi David’s state title run on Friday at Austin’s Lee and Joe Jamial Texas Swimming Center.
“We’re a family,” said Emily Galbraith, panting slightly and wiping sweat and chlorinated water away from her face. “That’s how we work. Everyone’s not here, but we all feel the same about helping Levi.”
David will attempt to win the first state swimming title in the school’s 90-year history, but he won’t do it alone.
“They’re my supporting drive, the ones I grind with and the one’s that push me when I want to slow down,” David said. “They rely on me to push them, too, as part as a give and get. I wouldn’t be right to not have them there with me on this journey.”
The six-boy, one girl and one woman crew of Emily and Tyler Galbraith Garret Penny, Max Gus, Kirsten Rolison, Rona Garcia and head coach Tamara Pruitt have spent the last two weeks and nine practices training with David, choosing to forego sleep for the chilling depths of the pool.
For all but David, the competition season is over and their hard work and dedication has been put to rest for another year. It would be easy to leave their friend to his own devices and melt back into the student population.
For most, that statement may be true, but for the swim family, nothing could be harder.
Each said despite having the opportunity to be selfish and get one or two more hours of sleep, keeping their familial bond is far more important than soft mattresses and warm sheets.
“We knew this was what we had to do since he placed in regionals. It was kind of a no-brainer,” said Rolison.
“It’s like Emily said, we’re all like a family and Levi’s like a brother to us,” Penny added. “We’ve gone through thick and thin together, so why wouldn’t we be there to support him like he’d support us if one of us was in the same position?”
For five of the six swimmers, who have been together since they were rookies on the high school stage, there is an underlying sentiment of an undying bond.
For the sixth, there is a realization of the intensity of the little group’s bond. This season, the five added a new Indian, Garcia, as the newest member of the tribe.
“It was all Emily, she kept telling me how close they really were,” she said. “During my senior year, I really wanted to experience that. I didn’t know what to expect my first practice, I was terrified. I heard it would be a lot of hard work, but I knew everyone would be there beside me. I didn’t know how to flip-turn at the beginning of the season, but they taught me and didn’t laugh at me. At least, not a whole lot.”
Pruitt said their togetherness is a staple of good teams, regardless of the sport, adding that despite the squabbles between their brothers and sisters, nothing affects what happens in the pool or inside practice.
“I had found out about arguments they’ve had with each other – which they solved on their own – months after they happened because the kids left it outside of the pool, she said.
All of the swimmers but one will travel to watch David attempt to do what no one has done in the school’s illustrious sports history.
Though torn between the journey to Austin and the hallways of Waxahachie, Rolison will stay behind to keep a record of perfect attendance intact. Like her mother and grandmother, who have 12 and 13 years of perfect attendance, respectively, Rolison will attempt to tie her mother’s mark.
“It’s a legacy,” Pruitt chuckled, the group following with a cacophony of giggles. “She’s not going, but I think we can excuse her for that.”
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.