The buzz started at the end of June, with an email announcing that a Palisades Porpoise was seeded second in the Olympic trials. Bethesda had a real Olympian in its midst. Suddenly, everyone knew Katie Ledecky - or talked about how they knew someone who knew Katie!
All around town, signs of support popped up. At the dentist’s office, I couldn’t help but smile at this ode to Katie Ledecky.
Katie Ledecky’s hometown is special. Bethesda is a place where Amazing Things Happen When a Community Pulls Together.
Nowhere on race day was Bethesda’s community spirit more evident than at Katie Ledecky’s school. Hundreds of friends, family and fans spilled out of a conference room at the Stone Ridge Upper School to cheer Katie on as she swam in her first Olympic race.
There were “Stone Ridge gator” cookies – in red, white and blue, of course.
The real Stone Ridge Gator was there too!
A beautiful American flag cake waited for the after party.
And, of course, t-shirts. (Two days later, and I’m still wearing mine, a bit less bright white than it appears in the pic below!)
As you’d expect at a Catholic school, before the race there was a prayer. A prayer whose Amen was followed by screams of “Go Katie!!!!”
The atmosphere? Well, let’s just say I couldn’t convince one of my colleagues to join me at Stone Ridge because as he said, “I spend enough time with screaming teen-age girls.” But since Lauren and I are both former teen-age girls, we knew we could handle it. Watch this video. The screaming at the end? Yours truly.
Later that night, I watched the NBC broadcast and the irony of the announcers’ commentary hit me. The men sounded worried about the young girl. Of course, I had the benefit of knowing that Katie had won. So I made these notes of their doubts…
“She is so far out there now…”
“She went out so quick..6/10 faster than she’s ever been in her life in the 400…”
“You’re concerned about that?”
There was some banter about how the experienced racers typically work to conserve energy in the long race. The experts were puzzled.
“What’s her strategy?”
“You usually lay it off in the beginning…and then get into a race…
“She is so far out there now…[sounding worried and skeptical] unless she has a lot of confidence…?”
“These wily veterans [referring to all the other Olympic swimmers] know what they’re doing.”
“Two body lengths ahead!!!”
“Trying to win gold in the 800 free.”
“Just go out and make it happen…”
This Stone Ridge girl knew what she was doing. She was there to win gold. And she did. Congratulations, Katie!
As for us, after such an exciting afternoon, there was no way I could return to the office. So I picked up my youngest son, and we headed off…Where else? To the Palisades Pool, where next summer he hopes to become a Porpoise, like Katie Ledecky.
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