Whenever I go to a pool, my eyes are drawn to the record board.
It’s kind of funny, because I haven’t always been a fan of the record board. Helen still holds over 20 age-group records at the pool in Cooperstown — the earliest from when she was 8 years old, and the latest from when she was 13. Then we moved, and she started racking up high school records in Greene.
A couple of years ago, I caught one of the swimmers in my group staring at the record board in Cooperstown.
“Do you know Helen Zaengle?” she asked.
“I do,” I told her. “She’s my daughter, and she’s Laurel’s sister.”
“Wow,” Margaret said. “She has a lot of records. I’m going to break some of them.”
That was the moment my feelings about the record board changed.
Helen was very good at swimming from a young age. She loved winning races — although there was one time when she asked me why she couldn’t get a rainbow ribbon (the ribbon handed out for participation); all her ribbons were blue.
The record board wasn’t posted at the time, and, quite frankly, I think Helen and I were both unaware of all the records. When the record board went up, part of me felt a little embarrassed because I never sensed that Helen was swimming for the glory of the record board or all the accolades. She swam with the truest sense of the amateur — a love of the sport.
But I worked in the pool these last few years with all those records at my back, and I tried not to look at them. Don’t misunderstand — I am very proud of Helen, but not because she rules the record board. I just think she’s wonderful.
Margaret helped me to see that the records are goals for other swimmers, not to induce pride, but to produce hard work.
Michael Phelps said, “Goals should never be easy,” and Margaret took that to heart. She’s 10 years old now and continues to push herself harder than her peers. She still hasn’t made it to the record board, but I have no doubt that she will.
Last year, Laurel made it to the record board, by breaking a record that had been up there since before Helen was even born. 11-12 100 Breaststroke.
This year Laurel was studying the records to see if there were any she was close to.
“How about that one,” I said, pointing to 13-14 200 Breaststroke. “I think that one is do-able, maybe not this year, but next.”
The name next to the record: Helen Zaengle.
Helen called me right up. “I heard you told Laurel to break my record,” she said.
“Heck, yes, I did,” I replied.
“I think that would be great,” she said.
She holds her records with open hands, bidding other swimmers to take them, and I think that makes me even prouder than all the records combined.