Editor's note: Costa Mesa High sophomore Sammy Swanson, a decorated snowboarder, was in Colorado to compete in the 2014 USA Snowboarding Assn. nationals, where he placed sixth in boardercross on Sunday. This is his first-person diary of his experience:
I'm there laying in my very warm, but uncomfortable bed, preparing to get up and step into the cold living room to get ready for the big day.
I run through everything I have to do to get prepared and take a deep breath. I get up, and step out into the living room to see my mom laying on the couch with the lights on. She was getting ready to wake me up but had to try and sneak in a 5-minute power nap before the eventful day starts.
She's delighted that I'm awake and starts asking me what I want for breakfast, and what I need to get ready, and all these questions about what I need.
All I know is that I want some oatmeal and then, boom, there it is. It's like my parents read my mind (or I told them I wanted oatmeal the night before but I'm not sure).
I eat slowly and tiredly.
Still sore from the day before, I get all my gear on and we head out to the car. I make sure that I have my lucky penny, bracelet, and socks on before the big day ahead of me. We drive to the mountain and my dad is making jokes pretending to act like a coach saying things like "now remember, put the secret sauce on during quarterfinals" and "don't stop turning up."
We get in the parking lot, and of course, it's picture time. My mom needs a picture of me with every one for everyone. She needs a Selfie, an Instagram picture, a Facebook picture, a Twitter picture, a Snapchat picture. Everything! But I recognize I'm going to enjoy looking at them in the future and comply with her wants.
Both my parents give me a kiss and send me off.
I head up to the chairlift and there is nobody there. I get to the course and notice that I am the first one there.
Now, this is odd because I am usually late to things, but not this time I guess. I get my spot set up and chill for about 15 minutes. Everybody starts rolling in slowly, but not me. I'm ready.
We run through the course for inspection one time and then practice starts. Because I am the first one there, I get the most practice laps, which is an essential bonus.
Now it's time to wait.
I wait for around 30 minutes for time trials to start (a time trial is a race by yourself that gets timed and used to place you in heats among other riders).
It is finally my turn to run. All I remember is getting in the gate and then crossing the finish line. I end up being the 19th fastest time out of 60-plus competitors.
I get back up to the top of the race area and wait for another hour or so. My time waiting up there includes listening to music, watching these hardcore riders waxing their boards and talking to their coaches, and talking to my friend, Russel, that I met from New Mexico.
They finally get to my heat and I see that I have to go against the fifth-place time trial and two other decent kids.
I think to myself, 'Wow, this is a hard group and it only gets harder from here.'
I get in the gate and only remember crossing the finish line in second place. I am relieved because the top two riders advance to the next round.
I get back to the top of the hill and wait for the next heat. I see that this heat is exceptionally harder and get nervous. I quickly put on some Ramones to calm my nerves. I get in the gate once again, and remember finishing second.
Relieved, I get back to the top of the hill. I realize that I am the only one with a non-racing snowboard. A harder heat, that I get second in, advances me to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, I end up getting third place and moving on to the consolation round.
This round determines who gets fifth through eighth.
I get second in this heat and sixth at Nationals and end my day with happy vibes and smiles from everyone.
This has been a great experience for me and I came away from this realizing that I can do anything I work to achieve.