Your reading location in January 2024: McCauley Aquatic Center
[Writer’s note] When I was 11 my main sport was swimming, a sport that doesn’t get nearly enough attention outside of the national heavyweights of Katie Ledecky and Ryan Murphy. Luckily, while women’s basketball has a week off, I’ve had time to give swimming its own spot here on FTRS. The next few words are a mix of my swim story, an invitation to come to the meetings of 2024, and reading. Take it or leave it as you like. This sport has so much room to grow and it is a privilege to watch our swimmers on a few occasions each year. Enjoy.
As much as the swim crowd consists largely of parents and friends of the swimmers, creating a viewing gallery that can hit the mid-hundreds of even the lower echelons of high school, it’s a place that falls into the grand scheme of places to exercise see, is very underestimated .
Swimming is a sport that invites moments of high engagement and angry noise, but also offers moments of pause, utter stillness and even passive lethargy. It’s a sport I grew up with in Georgia State High School, which got me four meetings at the McCauley Aquatic Center, where thousands descended over the course of a few days, where we skipped school to maintain our legs and fall asleep.
Built for Atlanta’s 1996 Centennial Olympics, McCauley is one of the few world-class pools in the Southeast to be built for literally every swim event, including another Olympics if Atlanta was just that lucky. In the past year, the pool has been extensively renovated since the building was converted into an indoor facility after the games. The scoreboard has been updated, new signage has been added, a new touch of navy blue has been added and most recently all the chairs on the gallery have been replaced.
As a former competitive swimmer, McCauley was intimidating and foreboding at times, but in the good way where you had no choice but to have an adrenaline rush. Every echo can be heard in the room, even faint splashes as a swimmer cools off in the 14-foot plunge pool. Most of my best relays and individual races have swum in this pool. While the youth events were, for the most part, the most intense controlled chaos you’ll ever see, the pool became the only sanctuary to focus and stay in control.
But as many parents know, the non-swimmer side of long swim competitions is daunting for another reason; The meetings last longer than a good pork shoulder cooked in a crock pot all day. If it’s a gathering full of middle school students, I understand it’s exhausting for most. But for those who live near the floating island of Atlanta, Georgia Tech’s meetings are arguably one of the most fan-friendly and relaxing sporting events around.
Watching a swim match has similar qualities to a baseball game, but offers predictable variability that makes it easy to know when to focus and when to let your mind wander. Writing this at the Tech vs. Gardner-Webb meeting, my mind would naturally wander during the distance events and rhythmically return to attention at the end of the race, or for the duration of the 100-yard run.
It’s a sport with gaps between events and during events. You’ll experience the ferocity and brawl of the sprint events, the murderous punishment of the 200IM and the marathon pace of the distance freestyle events, all in a two-hour span. When the meeting is close, the range of emotions for those willingly watching is vast.
Aside from being psychologically exciting and peaceful, you’re seeing real Olympic-level athletes performing at a much higher quality level compared to the other tech sports (volleyball and soccer are notable exceptions).
I still haven’t directly gotten to the full point of this article about why you should make reading at Georgia Tech Swimming a thing you should be doing in 2024. I trust that you, fellow readers, have not exhausted your upcoming reading list (mine will never finish) and will not have any more by the start of the home game season next year. I also assume that most of you who live in Atlanta haven’t gone to a tech meetup just because they’re few and far between, usually at odd times, or more than likely they’re just not at the appear.
So, here’s what you get when you make a Georgia Tech swim your January 2024 reading location:
- I guarantee that at one meeting you can read more than 50 pages and you won’t miss any important action in the pool. Multitasking!
- The perfect ebb and flow of the sporty background noise
- A chance to enjoy a crown jewel of the tech campus in its right form
- It’s free (apart from parking) and it’s never too hot or too cold at the watersports center
- For swimmers it makes a difference that people come to the competitions. Cheer makes a difference!
There you have it. Anyone who finds me at a meeting next year will receive a prize to be determined later. Probably a hi five. Go jackets!