The Swimming Sisters

Kim and Val Castro are swimming sisters.
Kim is sixteen. Val is fifteen. The sisters swim for the Red River Swim Program (RRSP). Both of them are fast. In fact, they are two of the fastest swimmers in the state.
I went to see the two sisters at the pool where they swim. They were training for a big meet.
“So,” I said, “do I dare ask which of you is faster?”
Kim smiled. “I am faster in the sprints,” she said. “But Val is faster in the long races.”
“So what counts as a sprint in swimming?”
“The 50 Free is a sprint,” said Kim.
“502” I said. “Is that 50 feet?”
“No,” said Kim, “it’s 50 yards.”
“Gosh!” I said. “50 yards? That’s a sprint? It sounds lone to me! You see, I am not much of a swimmer.”
“The 50 Free is an all-out sprint,” Kim said. “Its like the hundred yard dash in track. It’s over in a flash. The 100 Free is a sprint, too.”
“So what counts as a long race in swimming?”
“The 500 Free is a long race,” Kim groaned. “It’s too long for me. I start to get tired after 150 yards or so. But not Val! The longer the race is, the better she is.”
“The 500 Free is my best race!” said Val.
“500 yards?” I said. “What's that, a hundred laps?”
“Um, no,” Val said. “In a 25-yard pool, it’s up and back ten times.”
I jotted notes in my notebook.
“So let’s see,” I said. “100 yards counts as a short race. Kim is good at the short races. 500 yards is a long race. Val is good at the long races. Is there a race that is longer than 100 yards and shorter than 500?”
“Yes, there is,” said Kim. “The 200 Free.”
“So which of you speedsters wins that race?” I asked.
Kim looked at Val. She had a smile on her face. It was a sister-to-sister smile, and there was something else in it. There was a sort of challenge in the look.
Val smiled back. She had the same look on her face.
I waited.
At last Kim spoke. “It’s hard to say who is faster in the 200 Free. Sometimes Val wins and sometimes af win.
“I see,” I said. “It sounds like the 200 Free is the race to see. When will that race take place?”
“It will be on Sunday,” said Val, “the last day of the state meet.”
I got out my pen and wrote: “Sunday the 25%. 200 Free. Castro versus Castro!”
Val's Training
After I met with Kim and Val, both sisters jumped in the pool and started swimming. Kim jumped in Lane 3. Val jumped in Lane 9.
“Why don’t they both swim in the same lane?” I asked RRSP coach, Stan Pibwell.
“They don’t have the same training program,” Coach Pibwell explained. “Kim is a sprinter. Val swims the longer races, like the 500. The races are not the same, so the training is not the same.”
We stood next to Lane 9, where Val was swimming. She swam back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
“When will she get to stop?” I asked.
“Not for a while,” said the coach. “Val is training hard for the big meet. She has been swimming a lot of yards. In a week or so she will start to swim less so that her arms and legs feel loose and rested for the big meet. But it’s not time for her to taper off yet. This morning she has a lot of yards to swim.”
“Do I dare ask what counts as a lot?”
“She’s been swimming 7,000 or 8,000 yards a day,” said the coach.
“Yikes!” I said. “That's like five miles!”
“Yep,” said Coach Pibwell. “That's what it takes to be the best.”
“When she finishes swimming, will she get to go home and sleep?”
“Nope! Later on, after she gets out of the pool, she will do bench presses and leg presses. She will do sit-ups and chin-ups.”
“Oh man,” I moaned. “It makes me tired just to hear all of that!”
“It's like they say: there’s no gain without pain!” said Coach Pibwell.
Kim's Training
‘After seeing Val train, I went to Lanes 3-5, where Kim and the rest of the sprinters were training. They were not swimming lap after lap like Val. They were practicing their starts.
“Swimmers, take your marks!” a coach yelled.
Kim and the rest of the sprinters bent down. They grabbed the starting blocks with their fingers.
“Hup!” yelled the coach.
The sprinters exploded off the blocks. They dove into the pool. Kim was the fastest off the blocks, She sprang like a cat. Her hands seemed to make a hole in the pool. Then her arms and her legs went in the same hole.
Kim went under. She started kicking with her legs like a fish. Then she popped up and started swimming. She took five fast strokes. Then she stopped. She swam to the side of the pool, got out, and went back to the starting blocks.
“Why did she stop?” I asked.
“We are just practicing the start,” said Coach Pibwell. “You see, the start is a big thing in a sprint like the 50 Free. If you are fast off the starting blocks, you have a good chance of winning the race. But if you trail off the blocks, it’s hard to win. You end up back in the waves, getting sloshed from side to side. That's why we have the sprinters do lots of starts. Kim's start has been getting better and better.”
“So, Coach,” I said, “do you think Kim can win the 50 Free at the state meet?”
“She should win it,” said the coach. “I think she is the best overall swimmer in the state. Plus, as you can see, she has a strong start. But the 50 Free is so fast. A lot of swimmers could win it.”
“And the 100 Free?”
“She should win that, too.”
“And the 200?” I asked.
Coach Pibwell smiled.
“Well,” he said, “the 200 Free should be one heck of a race. Kim could win all three, the 50, the 100, and the 200. That's her goal. But Val will be swimming that race, too.”
Coach Pibwell looked to see if Kim was looking. She was not. Then he whispered, “I think Val gets a kick out of swimming faster than her big sister. And she has been training hard. The 200 is like a short jog for her. So it should be a good race!”
I got out my notebook. I looked at the page where I had written: “Sunday the 25". 200 Free. Castro versus Castro!” I underlined it twice.
The Big Race
I got to the pool in time for the 200 Free. I sat in the stands with Grover and Joan Castro, Kim and Val’s parents.
“I am so proud of Kim and Val,” said Grover Castro. “But I have a bad case of nerves. I hate it when the two of them swim in the same race. They have both been training so hard. They would both like to win this race. But they can't both win. I dont like to think that one of them may be upset.”
‘A man’s booming voice filled the air. “Irs time for the last race of the meet!” the man said.
“Let's meet our swimmers!” The man started listing, the swimmers in the Race.
“In Lane 2,” he said, “from Red River Swim Program, we have the winner of the 500 Free, Val Castro.” Cheers rose up from the RRSP swimmers on the deck and from fans in the stands.
“In Lane 3,” the man said, “from Red River Swim Program, the winner of the 50 and 100 Free, Kim Castro.” There were shouts and cheers for Kim, as well.
The swimmers got up on the starting blocks.
A man in a white coat said, “Swimmers, take your marks.” The swimmers bent down and grabbed the starting blocks.
Then there was a beep. The swimmers shot off. Kim’s start was perfect. She did her kick. Then she popped up and started swimming. Her arms went so fast. She seemed to be coasting.
Kim was the fastest swimmer for a hundred yards.
She made a big wave. The rest of the swimmers were trailing her. They seemed to be bouncing and sloshing in Kim’s waves.
I was starting to think it would not be such a close race after all. But just as I was thinking this, Grover Castro said, “Wait for it!”
“Wait for what?” I said.
“You'll see!” said Grover.
I looked back at the pool. Kim was still winning. But Val was closing in on her. The gap was five feet. Then it was three.
The swimmers flipped one last time. Kim was starting to look a bit tired. The gap was down to two feet. Then it was one foot. Then the two sisters were swimming side by side. As they came to the finish line it was too close to pick a winner. Kim and Val smacked the side of the pool at what looked to be the same moment.
A hundred parents in the stands looked up at the clock. A hundred swimmers on the deck looked up as well.
This is what the clock said:
Val was the winner!