Coming off of their second consecutive State Championship, the girls swim and dive team was riding a high.
After a successful season, athletes such as Theresa Santos, junior, were anticipating the excitement of the following season. However, COVID-19 led to many changes starting with the cancellation of the annual summer camp.
The 2020-2021 swim season made its tentative start in early December, but certain aspects of the season were missing.
Restrictions on large group gatherings have challenged the ability of the team to create a close bond with one another.
“Last year we had the most team bonding we have ever had, and it brought our team closer than ever before,” Santos said. “A strong connection like that is very important for success, and the COVID restrictions really hold us back.”
Swim and dive is required to wear masks at all times when not in the pool including in the Weight Room and social distancing is required in the pool.
Tryouts took place the week of Nov. 16 in split groups of 20 in order to keep athletes separated, and Santos said she felt completely safe.
The first meet of the season took place Monday, Dec. 8, at Ladue, and was a 135-50 MHS victory.
“Even though our connection might not be as strong as it could be if COVID wasn’t a thing, I still know our athletic ability will have the power to give us as much success,” Santos said. “I’d rather have the team be safe and healthy rather than sacrificing that for team bonding.”
Joseph Schoedel, varsity coach, takes his own precautions in addition to the county requirements by having the girls start at either end of the pool, keeping the same girls in their lanes each day and only having athletes stop at designated markers when resting.
Schoedel said he has been limiting one-on-one interactions and has been addressing the team as a whole from the middle of the pool.
“I’ve made adjustments just like all coaches do,” Schoedel said. “It’s not my usual style, but it’s what we all have to do right now.”
Boys swim and dive took place during the fall sports season, and Schoedel said a lot was learned from it. It gave swim coaches a precedent for how practices and meets should be run, as well as how to account for extracurriculars of athletes all while remaining safe.
In previous years, the team had pasta parties as ways of bonding as well as playing games and sharing stories. However, with COVID-19 restrictions, they will be unable to do so this season.
“Our team dynamic is what usually makes us successful,” Schoedel said. “That will be particularly difficult without some of the outside team building that usually occurs, but we have strong leaders that will work hard to make the season as ‘normal’ as possible and continue our traditions in the coming years.”
Though many successful seniors have graduated, Schoedel said both the returning athletes and incoming freshmen are proving to be strong.
Carsyn Cosman, junior, returned this season after having been on her club team over the summer, but was not immune to the hiatus many athletes were forced to take due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting pool access.
“I plan on working out more outside of the pool to become stronger in the places I’m not as strong as I want to be,” Cosman said. “I feel I am set back a little bit from last season.”
Although some of the larger events have been canceled or limited to reduced capacity, other meets throughout the season are still set to run as planned.
“The coaches are doing a great job with adjusting to the new rules and are making sure we still get all the training we need,” Cosman said.
The next meet will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at Parkway South High School.