"Last 20," I hear fuzzily, and we bring the stroke up for the last time. Amid � chaos of muscles and lungs and heart, I dredge up the last bit of strength I have and apply it to wood and water. We are flying, we are flying, and I want never to stop, although I cannot go on.
"Twelve, 13, 14, 15," comes the screamed beat. "Sixteen, 17, 18," and I know that this is it, that if I have anything left at all, give it now. "Nineteen, 20, paddle!"
We are over the finish line.
I collapse over my oar. I fight to breathe, to move. And then I remember—how did we place? Everyone is strangely quiet. We realize that winners have not been determined. With five trembling crews, we turn and paddle slowly to the dock.
We wait for a docking space, bobbing silently. Dartmouth's eight is hoisted out, a space is cleared, and Meredith directs us in. I crawl from No. 3 seat and stand, my legs shaking uncontrollably. Someone puts a steadying hand on my shoulder. We lean to unlatch our oarlocks and the announcer begins to note times and places.
"First place, Princeton University, in 5:21.28."
Cheers from the Princeton boat are echoed by the Princeton fans. We nine, feeling especially underdoggish, pause on the dock.
"Second place, Boston University, in 5:25.81." I want to cry. I listen, frozen.
"Third place, Connecti...."
We shriek, leap on the dock, cry with joy, throw our arms around anyone nearby and shriek more. We did it! Third place! Our time was 5:30.52 and Dartmouth, finishing fourth, was 5:30.66.