"The first meet we went to with Tracy was embarrassing," said Robert Parker, whose 15-year-old daughter swims for Tantallon Country Club.
A woman who knew Tracy said "bluntly, 'you don't come to all of the meets your daughter swims in.If you supported her more she would do better'."
He's still agonized by the incident, Parker said. "My wife and I were ashamed we hadn't followed Tracy more. For three years Tracy and Maria - her sister - took the bus alone to the meets. We never miss a meet now."
Tracy's success as a swimmer has become a family affair. "I couldn't make it without them," Tracy says of her family.
The 113-pound youngster holds the Tantallon pool and team record at 27 seconds flat for the 14-and-under 50-meter freestyle. In addition, she recently became the first black to swim in the highly competitive country club circuit championships.
"I hate to use 'the first black this or that,'" Parker said, "but we still have to because we haven't been fully accepted yet."
His wife nodded and added. "A white woman who saw Tracy swimming at the University of Virginia this summer said, 'Isn't it enough you (blacks) dominate football, basketball and running? Now you want to take over swimming, too?'"
Few blacks are in competitive swimming. Tracy hopes her "making it into the championships will inspire other black kids" to swim.
Parker understands why more blacks do not compete in the sport. "It takes a lot of time, money and it is a family sport. it's also a lonely sport. Everyone in the family has to be behind Tracy. One person will time her while another has to drive her to practice . . ." Parker said.
Bernard Katz, swimming coach at Indian Spring Country Club, says, "It's the only sport you don't get paid for."
Tracy started swimming five years ago at a summer camp. Tracy and Maria, 16, talked their father into installing a 40-by-20-foot pool in the backyard. After joining Tantallon, the father paid for them to attend winter training camp at the Naval Research Lab. "They were so far behind the country club swimmers." Parker recalled, "I put them in this program."
At age 12, Tracy stopped swimming but resumed at Maria's urging. "She stopped swimming because she didn't like getting up in the morning." Maria said. "But I knew deep down inside she liked swimming."
Now Maria and another sister, Doria, 17, encourage Tracy. "I want to see her go all the way," . . . the Olympics and further," said Tracy.
Parker played football for Bishop College in Dallas, Tex. "I like winners," he said. "There is no excuse for last."
Tracy said she is constantly under pressure to perform well and her father "pushes me the most." She quipped that she deals with the pressure by crying a lot.
But despite the pressure. Tracy said, there is nothing she would rather do than swim, except become a pathologist when she grows up. But her immediate goal is to become the first black American to swim in the Olympics.
In persuit of that goal, Tracy follows a strict schedule.
Each summer day she awakes at 4 a.m. For two hours she practices with the Solotar swim team coached by Ed Solotar. Tracy has been swimming with Solotar for only a year. At first Solotar was reluctant to coach Tracy because she was so far behind those her age.But now, Solotar said, "She has been here for barely a year and has done awfully well. She is dedicated. Frankly, I wish I had 17 more like her. If she continues to work hard she could become a national swimmer."
From Solotar, Tracy goes to Tantallon and swims for 1 1/2 hours. Finally, by 10:30 she is back home for a breakfast prepared by her father, who was the maitre d' in the Senate restaurant for 13 years.
Tracy's schedule during the school year is the same, except for being in class instead of Tantallon and attending a physical fitness program for 1 1/2 hours three days a week.
Tracy attended the week-long University of Virginia summer training camp this year. It cost Parker $270, but he feels it was well spent. "Tracy improved so much after that week," Parker said. "I always tell my girls don't make me spend money if you aren't serious."
Tracy proved how serious she was by winning a camp medal for being the hardest worker.
"Yes, getting that medal was painful," Tracy said. "My mistakes were video-taped in the water and I had to keep swimming until it was right."
She claims her biggest weakness a little more," she said. "I am not satisfied yet," her mother said. "Neither am I," said her father.
Her road to acceptance has not been easy.
"It was like throwing a chicken into a lion's den," her father said of the beginning years. "No one would cheer for her because she was black."
Tracy does not seem to be aware of the attention she draws when she enters a country club meet. But she does realize how much pride and inspiration she instills in young and old blacks.
A black waitress who has worked almost 30 years at Congressional Country Club recently noticed Tracy at the qualifying rounds of the championships.
After requesting her autograph, the woman told Tracy, "Honey, do you know you are the first black to ever put foot in that water." The elderly woman then placed her hand on Tracy's forehead and prayed she would have good luck that day.
Of the 12 who qualified for the championships that day, Tracy was eighth.