Provo • North Summit senior swimmer Ariel Fitch took a large step with her right leg and hoisted herself onto the highest step of the podium. She bent over and the medal was placed around her neck.
The smile filled her face. A desire to earn the small patch of real estate on top of the podium had burned since her freshman season. But it was a dream she had always figured would remain that — a dream, with little hope of it becoming anything more.
The odds were stacked against her, after all. In previous seasons, Class 2A swimmers were grouped in the Class 3A meet, meaning athletes from Class 2A rarely medaled. A trip to state served, essentially, as its own reward.
But that all changed this season, when Class 2A was given its own event. What was once was a dream for Fitch became a possibility. Then, in the span of 25.79 seconds Thursday, it became a reality. She won the 50-yard freestyle in the Class 2A state meet by nearly a half body length over her closest competitor.
"I got to fulfill that dream today, which was really cool," she said. "It’s like a weight off your shoulders. To look at the people next to you and know that they pushed you, it’s so amazing. Definitely a ‘wow’ feeling."
When she touched the final wall Thursday, she looked up at the scoreboard on the wall and found joyous relief. She climbed up on the podium minutes later and pointed to a close friend who was among the first to believe in her.
The friend had told Fitch during her freshman season that she’d stand on the podium her senior year. Fitch, herself, was not a believer.
"I was like ‘No way. We compete in 3A, so even if I get fast, it’s not possible,’" said Fitch, who finished just 14th in the 50-yard freestyle in last year’s Class 3A meet. "She was here because she believed in me before I even believed in myself."
When Fitch stepped off the podium, she soaked in her surroundings and reflected on her dream. The moment exceeded how she’d imagined it.
"I had lots of fantasies of slipping and falling on my face climbing to the podium," said Fitch, who later also won the 100-yard freestyle. "That didn’t happen, so it was much better."
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