ACT Reading Apr. 2017 74F - Passage I

Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage.

LITERARY NARRATIVE: This passage is adapted from the essay "Rough Water" by David McGlynn (©2008 by David McGlynn).

One of my best races could hardly be called a race
at all. I was a senior in high school, gunning to qualify
for the USA Junior Nationals. The previous summer I
had missed the cut by less than a second in the mile,
5 and just the day before, at my high school regional
meet, l had come within three-tenths of a second in the
500-yard freestyle. The qualification time was 4:39.69;
I swam a 4:39.95. The next day, Sunday, I drove with
my mother to the far side of Houston where a time trial
10 was being held-an informal, unadvertised event
thrown together at the last minute. The only races
swum were those the swimmers requested to swim.
Most were short, flapping sprints in which swimmers
attempted to shave off a few one-hundredths of a
15 second. I didn't have the courage to face the mile, and
since I'd struck out in the 500 the day before, I decided
to swim the 1,000-yard freestyle. Forty lengths of the
pool. It was a race I'd swum fast enough to believe that
given the right confluence of circumstances-cold
20 water, an aggressive beat, an energetic meet-I could
make the cut. I had fifteen seconds to drop to qualify.

By the time I stood up on the blocks, I was not
only the only one in the race, I was practically the only
one in the natatorium. The horn sounded and I dove in.
25 I was angry and disheartened at having missed the cut
the day before and I had little belief that I could go any
faster today.

About six hundred yards in, my coach started to
pace. I stayed steady on, not in a hurry, not about to get
30 my hopes up. In my mind, I had alieady missed the
time. Then a boy from a rival high school, whom I
hardly knew, unfolded his legs and climbed down from
the bleachers and started to cheer. He squatted low to
the water and pointed his finger toward the end of the
35 pool, as if to say, That's where you're going, now hurry
up. I thought, If he's cheering, maybe I'm close.

Sometimes a moment comes along when the world
slows down, and though everything else moves around
us at the same frenetic speed, we're afforded the oppor-
40 tuoity to reflect in real-time rather than in retrospect. It
is as though we slip into a worm-hole in the fabric of
time and space, travel into the past and then back again
to the present in the same instant. That morning, swim-
ming, I remembered a day in late September the year
45 before, the last day my swim team had use of an out-
door pool. All summer long my teammates and I swam
under an open sky. After this day we would spend the
rest of the season in a dank and moldy indoor pool.

The triangular backstroke flags were strung across
50 the lanes and the adjacent diving well. My teammates
liked to run down the long cement deck, jump out over
the diving well, and try to grab hold of the line. Many
of them could jump far enough to make it. I could not,
though I tried every day. I tried that day, and missed.
55 Since I would not have another shot until May, I
decided to try again. I squared up and ran, my feet wet
against the pavement, and just as my foot hit the water's
edge, one of my teammates called out "Jump!" I bent
my knees and pushed off hard and got my hand around
60 the flag line. I pulled the whole thing into the water.
Autumn was coming and I wondered if there was a
metaphor in what I had just done; a fortune folded
inside a cookie: my greatest effort would come when I
was down to my last opportunity.

65 Now it was March and I was down to my last
opportunity, thinking about that day and hearing the
word "Jump!" as my eyes followed the finger of the boy
pointing me onward. What I understood-not later, but
right then, in the water-was how little this swim added
70 up to in the world. I had spent more than a year training
for this one swim, and when it was finished the world
would be no different than before it began. If no one
else cared, then the swim was mine alone. It mattered
because it was the task before me now, the thing I
75 wanted now. Swimming, I had long understood, is a
constant choice between the now and the later: exhaustion
now for the sake of fitness later, all those Friday
nights spent in the pool in pursuit of an end that seemed
always one step farther on. I was out of laters, this was
80 the end, and I made my choice. I cashed in the energy
set aside for climbing out of the pool and unfolding my
towel and tying my shoes. I've never sprinted harder in
my life, not before and not since. I hit the wall. I knew
by instinct, by the spasm of my tendons and the ache in
85 my bones, before I ever turned toward the clock or
heard my coach scream, that I had made it.

 
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