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Sarah O'Connor | Tuesday, November 27, 2012

LOS ANGELES – Surreal.
That is seriously the only word I can use to describe the feeling of standing on the field in the middle of our team celebrating a victory over USC. A victory that concluded an undefeated season and a victory that clinched our spot in the national championship game.
I’ve been imagining this my entire life. I grew up in a state without any professional sports teams, and coming from a Notre Dame family, Notre Dame has always been my team. I’ve watched every single game since I can remember and I’ve had to deal with all the bashing and negative comments about the irrelevance of the Notre Dame program for most of my life. Still, I’ve stood by this team through everything, always holding out hope for the time that Notre Dame reemerges.
Everything was surreal: Running across the field with the players in Dublin to dancing to The Four Seasons in the student section following a night game victory against Michigan. Being on the sidelines as our defense held off Stanford in an overtime goal line stand and watching as all of my fellow students were able to join in the celebrations as they rushed the field. Then the following week, after a Senior Day shutout, watching as both Oregon and Kansas State fell to put us as No. 1 in the country.
Finally, we were only one game away from clinching our spot in the national championship game. Standing on the sidelines for the entire game, my heart was pounding. I had to use all of my power to not cheer since as a photographer, I’m supposed to remain an impartial member of the media.
The last five minutes was the most nerve-wracking experience in my life. I just kept watching seconds fall off the clock, every second, one step closer to a national championship. In the final minutes, my heart dropped as I saw USC catch a pass that put the Trojans within the five-yard line. The moment USC dropped the pass on fourth down after nine plays within the five-yard line, I literally jumped up and started cheering, getting numerous disapproving looks from fellow media photographers. I didn’t care. I’ve waited too long for this.
I lined up on the sideline waiting for the final minute to run off the clock. As the game finally ended, I rushed the field along with the other journalists to document the celebrations and reactions of the players and coaches. I’m not going to lie, tears of happiness were shed.
In 43 days I will be on the field as Notre Dame plays for the national championship. I’m not sure how that game with end, but win or lose, I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to end my senior season.