Taylor McKittrick overcompensated with her left stroke and hugged the lane divider down the stretch during the 100-yard freestyle at Liberty High School.
Her perseverance pushed her to the win anyway.
The senior captain, who has been bothered with tendinitis in both of her shoulders her entire high school career, was joined in the winner's circle by teammates Carsen Glass, Sami Lenzmeier and Allison Ramirez at the meet's end as Liberty slipped past host Discovery Canyon to win the dual 99-87 on Tuesday afternoon.
McKittrick said her first performance of the season felt like a grind. It looked like it, too.
In the hardest event of the day to watch - for anybody - a throbbing McKittrick fended off Thunder senior Allison Bullock by an arm's length and touched the wall in 1 minute, 2 seconds. It was a noteworthy and remarkable start for a 17-year-old that deals with pain every day in practice and will have to quit competitively swimming by season's end.
"I just wanted to be out here with these girls this season no matter how I felt," McKittrick said. "I might tear up my shoulders but it's worth it for one last season. There was no way I'm missing this."
Elsewhere for the Lancers, Glass won the 50 free (27.71) and the 100 butterfly (1:06.58); Ramirez won the 200 free (2:07.41) and 500 free (5:39.30); and Lenzmeier won the 200 individual medley (2:25.60) and 100 backstroke (1:04.10).
All three had a hand in relay wins for Liberty.
"It isn't about one girl on this team though," third-year coach Erik Richardson said when asked of the girls' individual performances. "So I can't really talk about just one girl. It is always, 'How can we make each other better?' It is about every single girl on our team."
And Tuesday it took quite a few of them to fend off the fifth-year program at Discovery Canyon, which stayed in reaching distance throughout despite a roster riddled with youth.
Senior Emma Plentl and freshman Erin McGill grabbed individual wins for the Thunder, and senior Emily Hand led the 200-freestyle relay to a win to keep the meet close.
"This is a rebuilding year for us," said fifth-year coach Lisa Garrelts, who has built Discovery Canyon into a competitive 4A team despite its new existence and lack of a home pool. "We don't have as many kids as we have had in the past and we have a lot of new faces. But this was a good platform to start with for us. ... We swam pretty well for not having all of our girls in their regular events."
Tuesday, as a whole, was a promising start for both schools. For McKittrick, meanwhile, it was a painful, yet joyous start to prove to anyone and everyone - mainly herself - that she can turn some heads and help out the Lancers this season despite her nagging injuries.
"I didn't want to end it with last season where I did terrible at the state meet," said McKittrick, who was the final leg of the 400-free relay that finished 38th of 38 at state. "I felt pretty good the weeks before the state meet, but then once it came around my arms were dead.
"This year my arms are hurting, but I have to give it one more shot. I just want to be a part of this team and be with these girls."