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  • For once, the end of the race didn’t really hurt. Every other time we had finished a 2000 meter sprint, our muscles burned, our lungs strained, and – most importantly – our pride stung. We’d never won before. But this time, it was different.

    It was the “A final” heat of the Men’s Varsity 4+ category at the American Collegiate Rowing Association’s National Championship regatta. We’d breezed through the early rounds; things were finally clicking for us.

    Taylor and I had been rowing together for four years. We’d endured the pain of losing the whole time, with barely a single positive race experience to speak of. No matter how hard we had trained, when it came time to race, things fell apart. David and Armando had endured the same pain for three years.

    But when it came down to our last chance, our final race together, all the pieces fell into place. Instead of falling behind at the start, we hung with Georgia Tech and Michigan. That sent the adrenaline coursing through our veins, and we leapt out to a commanding lead. For the middle 1000 meters of the race, we looked untouchable.

    Then came the last 500 meters. We knew Georgia Tech had a strong finishing move, but they came faster than we’d expected. Armando increased the stroke rate, desperately trying to hold on. They pulled even. Then Avery told us to let everything go. For the last ten strokes, we put everything on the line – and we crossed it first.
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