The Other Daughter

A blog by Lara Jackson’s sister

Archive for the ‘Swimming memories’ Category


Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 13, 2009

Swimming was not necessarily a burdensome limit on our family vacations.  Going to out of town meets gave us the chance to see places we never would have visited otherwise.

The first such city was Tucson.  I love Tucson, especially when in an air-conditioned room.

Below, Lara and a view of the Tucson desert at the Sonora Desert Museum.

Lara at Desert Museum.jpgLara swam at a meet in Tucson every June.  We would stay at a cozy Embassy Suites which had the best breakfast spread of any hotel I’ve stayed in, including the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.  In Tucson we felt positively decadent with our short-order pancakes, fruit, and juice bar, sitting on the patio in the cool morning.

After breakfast, we would stock up the cooler with sports drinks and water and head to the swim meet.

Lara & Gramp & Dad in Tucson 1999.jpg

To the right, Lara with our grandfather, Richard Jackson, and dad, Keith Jackson in 1999.  The bleachers are above the pool, which you can see in the background.

I would usually spend most of the meet listening to Cowboy Mouth on my CD player, reading sci-fi — and I will not post a link to exactly which sci-fi, because I’m too ashamed to admit what horrible stuff I used to read.

In the evening we would

a) go to a movie, because movie theaters out west are usually extravagant.  My theory: during summer, people like to go someplace cool and dark and drink bladder-busting sodas.

b) go to the Sonora Desert Museum.

We drove for about an hour (again, me listening to Cowboy Mouth and reading in the car, because in high school I avoided “togetherness”), arrive at the museum at dusk.  The museum is something like a nature hike, zoo, and natural history museum in one easy package.

We walk these trails, with signs pointing out important flowers and cacti, and warning people to avoid the javelinas. Javelinas.jpg

To the left: javelinas on the trail.  Oh yes, they run free in the desert.  They may look like friendly, furry pigs, but in real life they’re vicious killers and will eat your face.  At least that’s the impression I got.  I’ve never seen one.

The museum has animal enclosures.  I remember the mountain lions and the mountain goats as big as mountain lions.   Sonora Desert Museum mt goats.jpg   The animal enclosures blended so perfectly with the landscape, you forgot they were in a zoo.  To the right, three mountain goats and their au naturel cage.

 There was also an awesome display where you went into a cave.  I don’t know how much of the cave was man-made and how much was natural.  there were tight cave paths that kids (humans, because goats weren’t allowed) could squeeze through to learn about spelunking and bats.

 One year, my parents bought a new camcorder and I took control, taping Lara’s races, but also documenting the rest of our vacation.  I learned how to work a camera, use zoom so that nobody gets motion sickness when you force your unsuspecting relatives to watch it, and to edit because as cool as it is to stare at a mountain goat in real life, no one wants to watch a two minute home video of a goat.

Below, a picture of Lara and me probably watching a display about bats, which is why it’s so dark.

 Lara and me at Desert Museum.jpg On one trip, we went to Old Tucson, the movie studio where masterpieces were filmed, including:

 Rio Bravo, starring John Wayne

 The Outlaw Josey Wales, starring Clint Eastwood

 The Frisco Kid, starring Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford

 My dad and I would always watch Christmas with The Duke on TBS, so when we came upon that Rio Bravo set, where the final shoot-out takes place, I went bonkers.  I stood in the same place where John Wayne crouched behind a rock and shot a Hollywood gun.  You are so jealous right now.

 My parents loved traveling to Tucson.  We would look at the record boards, the lists of names and my parents would speculate that Lara might one day attend UA and have her name on the records board. records board Oct 2008.jpg

 In October 2008, my mom took this picture:

See Lara’s name, with a whole bunch of other glamorous swimmers?There’s one place Lara has made her mark.

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Pac-10 and The Swim Meet Schedule

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

NCAA 2008 Champ.jpgI have only been to one of my sister’s college meets, but it was the big one: NCAA 2008.

To the left: Lara accepted her 1st place medal for the 50 free at NCAA 2008.  She’s making a “WC” with her hand, for Wildcats.

My parents, as I have mentioned before, are experienced swimmeet cheerleaders.  By 2008 Lara was a junior and Mom and Dad had the schedule down pat.

This week, Lara and her teammates are swimming in the Pac-10 Conference in Seattle.  When you click on this (fourth photo in), you can see a picture of the 200 medley relay team, Hailey DeGolia, Annie Chandler, Lara Jackson and Lindsey Kelly.  Click here for UofA Pac-10 coverage.

If you’re very excited about Lara swimming, or if you don’t have anything else to do, you can watch live streaming of Lara’s best event, the 50 freestyle.  Just go to this website, and a screen will appear during the meet at the bottom right-hand corner.  Lara’s 50-free will begin at approximately 10 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 26.

Here’s what my parents’  Thursday will look like:

Early in the a.m., Mom will gather with other swim parents to assemble gift bags for all the doing goodie bags.jpggirls.  Parents collect little things like headbands, worry stones, removable tatoos, other goodies.  Anything in school colors is highly valuable.The parents leave the gift bags outside the girls’ hotel rooms.  This is a picture of me and the swim moms.

Mom and Dad will go to preliminaries and sit through many many heats.

From this glossary I found on the USA Swimming site:




After preliminaries, Mom and Dad will go out to lunch.  Sometimes Lara goes too, but she won’t on Thursday.  So my parents will get food and bring it to her at the hotel.  During a meet, the swimmer’s needs come first.  I didn’t realize this when I went to NCAAs.  I didn’t realize that I would have no access to any food until Lara had everything she needed.  This year, I’m bringing a stash of Kashi bars.

Afternoon is rest time.

 In the evening, all the parents wait for the swimmers to come down to go warm up before finals. Parents cheering.jpg

 To the right is a picture of U of A parents cheering, waiting for that first swimmer to step off the elevator.

 The parents sing the Arizona fight song, wave pom-poms and generally try to embarrass their daughters.

 Finals will begin at 6 p.m. in Seattle, on Thursday.  They may continue until after 9 p.m.  Then my parents will congratulate Lara and the other swimmers and parents, collect Lara’s first place trophy, and only then can anyone who’s not a swimmer get dinner.

I’m bringing lots of Kashi bars.

– the division of an event in which there are too many swimmers to compete at one time. For example, an event with thirty swimmers in a six-lane pool would require five heats.In other words: there are eight lanes in a pool.  An event is the stroke and length (e.g. 50 meter freestyle).  A heat is a round of eight swimmers within an event.  The fastest 16 swimmers will swim in finals that evening.


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Out in the West Texas town of El Paso

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

cristo rey el paso from citydatadotcom.jpgEl Paso, Texas.  The Sun City.  Imagine the state of Texas in your mind.  See that far left pointy bit? That’s El Paso, squished between New Mexico and old Mexico.
Famous El Pasoans:

Don Haskins led the first basketball team with five black starters to NCAA victory, and then they made a movie about it.

Lee Trevino got his start at a golf tournament in El Paso.

Debbie Reynolds was born in El Paso.

And don’t forget Marty Robbins:

Though technically within Texas borders, El Paso does not, like every other major Texas city, claim to be home to the only “True Texans.”
Fun facts about El Paso:
It has a slightly larger population than Boston.
It is the fourth largest city in Texas.
It is the home of Chico’s Tacos.  NOT for the amateur.
Most El Paso residents are of Mexican descent.

When we were little babies, my parents put Lara and me in the care of a Mexican lady, Toni.  Toni weaned us on refried beans and Spanish rice and homemade tortillas, and menudo.  Mmm menudo, and I don’t mean the Ricky Martin band.  Here’s a site with more information than you will ever need about menudo.
desert pic el paso planetwaredotcom.jpgDespite four years each in her care, Lara and I do not speak Spanish.  It’s probably the biggest shame in my life.
Lara has not forgotten her home town — she mentions it whenever the press ask where she’s from.  And her home town has not forgotten her.

Lara was nominated to the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame on February 18, 2009.  Flip Lyle, triathlete and Hall of Fame treasurer, nominated her.  In Lara’s category three out of 10 to 15 athletes are chosen per year.

“I was excited and delighted to nominate Lara,” Lyle said over the phone.  “She is obviously an extraordinary swimmer.”
Three people must speak on the nominee’s behalf.  Lara’s high school coaches, including Wright Stanton, spoke for her and my parents assembled a resume of her achievements.
view from franklins.jpgLara still finds it “surreal” to think that so many people pay attention to her career.  Lara doesn’t think of herself as bigtime yet, but she said, “It feels good to be supported by your hometown.”

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Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 11, 2009

No high school athlete can get very far without her parents.  parents shirts front10.08 003.jpg

My parents have always hovered over the line between “supportive” and “pushy.”

In high school, it seemed like Lara wanted to quit swimming every few months.  She wanted to hang out with friends or visit her horse rather than go to practice.

My father knew what potential Lara had, he knew that if she toughed it out, the glory and recognition would come.  You try to explain that to a 16-year-old.

When Lara found it especially irksome to go to practice, they would let her have some time off.  My parents wanted her to succeed, but they didn’t want her to burn out.

When Lara was 18, I came home from college for spring break.  I watched her compete in a city meet.  I remember watching all the swimmers step onto the blocks.

Dara Torres lots of women diving.jpgCan you tell them apart?  I wished there was some big distinguishing mark on Lara’s back so I could pick her out from the bleachers.

Later that week, Lara disappeared for an afternoon.  When she came home, she showed me her stinging-new, blue, star tattoos on her shoulder blades.  I promised not to tell our parents.

Here’s a little background about my father and what he calls “body mutilation.”  When I was 12, I really wanted my ears pierced.  My dad refused, and my mom agreed.  I kept begging.  Finally my dad said I could get my ears pierced if I wrote a report on the infections and allergies assoiciated with cutting holes in one’s flesh and driving bits of metal through.  Well, before the internet, it was too hard for me to find research on “The Dangers of Ear Piercing,” so my father finally relented.

Nevertheless, you can imagine what he felt about tattoos.

Lara didn’t tell my parents about her tattoos.

Lara at block in Tucson.jpg She let my mom discover the tattoos when they went on vacation together the next week.  I was safe at school.  None of the Jackson womenfolk knew how Dad would react.

 He took it pretty well.  Lara was 18, there was nothing he could do.  He said as far as tattoos go, there are worse things she could have gotten, in worse places.

 When Lara joined the Arizona Wildcats that fall, my parents met other swim parents at orientation.  Swimmers are generally cleancut; Lara has a lipring, her hair was dyed black, and she had tattoos.  The swimmers and their parents didn’t know how to react.

 When they told the others that Lara Jackson was their daughter, the common response was, “Oh, she’s actually pretty nice.” 

 My parents responded, “Well, we always thought so.”

 When my parents went to the first dual meet, my dad noticed that families of swimmers wore Arizona t-shirts with their names on it.  Dad said to Mom, “We don’t have to put our name, we can just put Lara’s tattoos.”  And the brand was born. 

parents shirts back10.08 004.jpg

 So much for the rebellious teenage act.

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The trodden path

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 11, 2009

Lara has been swimming since she was 10 and a half. Lara & Melissa.jpg

Her first coach, Melissa Lomeli, is still a part of our family.  Lara was a bridesmaid at her wedding.  My mom has a dog that once belong to Melissa.

When Lara got older, she found coach Wright Stanton.

He started a USA Swimming club team: the Barracudas.

He had to start his own team because of major drama with the other swim teams in El Paso.

You thought the Desperate Housewives were dram-queens.  They got nothing on private team rivalry in El Paso, Texas.

Part of the rift was caused by Coach Stanton’s style.  He focused on form, not necessarily on speed.  If Lara had a bad habit, he would pull apart her stroke until her habits improved.  Sometimes this meant that Lara didn’t swim as fast.  Another coach may have ignored the little flaws in Lara’s technique because she was so fast.  Not Wright.

When Lara went to college, she did not have the same impressive swim resume as most of her fellow freshmen swimmers.  She felt she was the slowest, shortest, weakest on her team.  She didn’t get a fancy scholarship.

But her sprint coach, Rick DeMont, has said that she has no bad habits.  She has grown into her strength.

As a senior this year, Lara is one of two team captains.  She has become an anchor on the team, bringing home a National Championship will do that.

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Lara: The Competitor

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 10, 2009

Hi, nice to meet you.

No, I’m not the swimmer.  I’m the other daughter.

This is how I have introduced myself to my parents’ friends for 10 years.

My sister began swimming on a city league when she was 10 and a half, and began winning medals shortly after.

little lara with medals.jpgWe stopped Girl Scouts and the church youth group.  We never went camping again.  Most weekends, my parents and sister were busy at swimmeets.  Swimmeets in dark, musty, humid public pools.  Loud music echoed off cement walls, Adidas sandals slapped wetly on the cement floor.  Kids of all ages ran around in Speedos, caps and goggles.

Swimming was fun for the whole family.  My mom brought snacks and socialized with other parents.  My dad often volunteered to be dj.  Once, I even helped keep track of race times on a database.

I didn’t mind going to out-of-town meets.  Every year Lara competed in Tucson, Ariz.  We would drive five hours, see The Thing and then spend three days trying to sit comfortably on bleachers in 100 degree weather.  Fun times.

No really, I’m very proud of my sister.  I always wear Arizona shirts when she swims, well, when my parents remember to tell me she’s swimming.

In March 2008, I saw my sister swim in her third NCAAs competition.


Here we are in Ohio at the Aquatic Center.

She was a junior a University of Arizona, in Tucson.  Lara was part of the first women’s team to bring U of A and Coach Frank Busch the NCAA championship.  Lara took home four gold medals, one for her individual race, the 50-freestyle; and three as part of relay teams.

One thing I learned about my sister at my first college-level swimmeet:

She’s a bad-ass.

 competitor.jpgYes sirs & madams, that muscular, composed swimmer with the skeleton on her warm-up suit and tattoos on her shoulder blades, that’s my baby sister.

Lara like every athlete, brings her toughest face to the competition pool.

I was shocked at the stress level Lara dealt with at NCAAs.  Before that, she was just my sister.  We talked about boys and pets and clothes and school; and how crazy our parents are getting.  At a meet, though, my sister becomes The Competitor.  She swims with Olympians.  She does not let them see her sweat.  I know about her life away from the pool, because swimming is not her whole life.  For now, swimming is her focus.

She’s like me; when she decides to do something, she’s going to be the best.

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