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Your January 2024 reading location: McCauley Aquatic Center

We’re not kidding, reading at a swim meet is the best

New chairs were installed in McCauley Aquatic Center over winter break
Jack Purdy

[Writer’s note] For 11 years growing up, swimming was my primary sport, a sport that gets nowhere near enough attention outside of the national heavy hitters of Katie Ledecky and Ryan Murphy. While women’s basketball has a week off, I thankfully had time to give swimming its own space here on FTRS. The next set of words are a mix of my story of swimming, an invitation to come to 2024’s meets, and to read. Take it or leave it as you will. This sport has so much room to grow still, and it’s a priviledge to watch our swimmers in few opportunities each year. Enjoy.

As much as the swimming crowd largely is parents and friends of the swimmers, creating a viewing gallery that can run into the mid-hundreds even in the lower high school ranks, it is a place very underrated in the grand scheme of places to watch sport.

Swimming is a sport that invites moments of high engagement and furious clamor, but provides moments of pause, utter silence, and even passive lethargy. It’s a sport I grew up participating in all the way up to the state high school level in Georgia, which earned me four meets at McCauley Aquatic Center where thousands descended over the course of a couple days where we’d skip school in order to preserve our legs and sleep in.

Having been built for the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics, McCauley is one of the few world class pools in the southeast built for literally any swimming event, including another Olympics if Atlanta were ever so lucky. Over the past year, the pool has seen the most extensive renovations since the building was converted into an indoor facility after the games. The scoreboard was updated, new signage was put up, a new splash of navy paint went up, and most recently all of the chairs in the gallery were replaced.

As a former competitive swimmer, McCauley was at times daunting and foreboding, but in the good way where you had no choice but have an adrenaline rush. Every echo is heard in the room, even faint splashes in during a swimmer’s cooldown in the 14 foot dive pool. Most of my best relays and individual races were swum in that pool. While the youth events were largely meets of the most intense controlled chaos you’ll ever see, the pool became the only refuge where one could focus and have control.

But, as many parents know, the non-swimmer side of long swim meets is daunting for another reason; the meets take longer to finish than a good pork shoulder cooked all-day in a crock pot. If it is a meet full of middle schoolers, I get it, that is exhausting for most. But, for those living near the swimming island of Atlanta, Georgia Tech’s meets arguably are one of the most fan-friendly and relaxing sporting events out there.

Watching a swim meet shares similar characteristics to a baseball game, but provides predictable variability that make it easy to know when to focus and when to let your mind wander. Writing this at the Tech vs. Gardner-Webb meet, my mind naturally would roam during the distance events and rhythmically swing back to attention at the end of the race or for the duration of the 100 yard races.

It is a sport with that provides gaps in between events and during events. You get the ferocity and brawl-like nature of the sprint events, the grueling punishment of the 200IM, and the marathon pacing of the distance freestyle events all in a two hour span. If the meet is close, the range of emotions available to those purposely watching is massive.

On top of being psychologically thrilling and peaceful, you’re seeing actual Olympic-level athletes perform at a much higher quality tier relative to the rest of Tech’s sports (volleyball and football being notable exceptions).

I still haven’t directly addressed the whole point of this article, why you should make reading at Georgia Tech swimming a thing to do in 2024. I will assume that you my fellow reader have not exhausted your upcoming reading list (mine will never finish), and won’t by the time home meet season rolls around next year. I’m also assuming most of you living in Atlanta haven’t gone to a Tech meet just beacuse they are few and far between, usually at weird hours, or most likely they just don’t hit the radar.

So, here is what you’ll get by making a Georgia Tech swim meet your January 2024 reading location:

  1. I guarantee at a meet one can get 50+ pages read and not miss a bit of important action in the pool. Multitasking!
  2. The perfect ebbing and flowing nature of sporting background noise
  3. The chance to enjoy a crown jewel of Tech’s campus in its proper form
  4. It’s free (aside from parking) and the aquatic center is never too hot or cold
  5. It makes a difference to the swimmers that people come to the meets. Cheering makes a difference!

There you have it. Anyone that finds me at a meet next year gets a prize to be determined later. Probably a hi-five. Go Jackets!