Swimming kicks off first meet virtually

March 12, 2021 — by Jonathan Li and Tiffany Wang

Digital swim meets -- they're awkward, cumbersome, and absolutely a product of the times. Nonetheless, the swim team presses forward into the upcoming modified season.

Following a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, swimming resumed as a Season 1 sport on Feb. 8. After three days of tryouts, daily practices resumed, albeit very differently from a typical year.

Practices have been split into two time slots, one that begins at 1:45 p.m. and another that begins at 2:45 p.m. Swimmers are pre-assigned lanes and each lane holds two swimmers at most, with both swimmers starting on opposite sides of the pool on the right side of each lane so that social distancing is maintained. Masks also need to be worn the entire time up until jumping in the water, senior Grace Stuart said.

On Feb. 26, the team had their first meet against Gunn High School. The meet was held virtually, and each school sent in their recorded times to an online database.

“This meet was tough because there were far less people than normal, so it was harder to pace myself,” junior Isabel Lee said. “I normally race against a whole heat of seven people, but last meet I was only racing against one other person.”

Furthermore, Gunn High School had issues with their timing systems, so the results of the meet are still unknown. Races were live streamed onto YouTube, where parents and students could watch during the race. During this meet, the stands were empty and the pool deck, normally crowded, was filled with only Saratoga swimmers wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart.

“Trying to coordinate with other schools on how to run a meet virtually and still have meets be competitive is drastically different,” Bonner said. 

For future meets, to address the lack of competition, the coaches decided to turn meets into intramural events as well.

“Coach Mike Allegretti and I had the idea to have groups within Saratoga compete against each other,” Bonner said. “It does make meets sometimes more exciting when we have people actively compete against each other, and we hope we can have some fun races.”

Because the meet did not include swimmers from other schools, it finished in an hour, compared to the usual three hours.

“Even though we had to distance the entire meet, it was still fun to cheer on our teammates and all of the swimmers had a great time,” Stuart said.

Though many players were disappointed with their performances, Bonner said he was pleasantly surprised.

“I think the first meet ran very well,” Bonner said. “Athletes swam great, and most of our team — somewhere between 75-80 percent — swam best times.”

However, despite the performance of the swimmers in the first meet, Bonner points out that club swimmers who were swimming for scholarships and college recruiting have been hit particularly hard. 

“In a sport like swimming, athletes literally train for one or two major competitions a year,” Bonner said. “For most athletes who trained last year, they did not have a CCS because the season got cancelled, they did not have a summer season because that was cancelled and this year they’re not having a championship.” 

Bonner said that college coaches want to see how these juniors and seniors are swimming, but haven’t been able to do so due to the pandemic.

“California has really been decimated, and in particular Santa Clara County — the rest of the country hasn’t been doing this,” Bonner said. “And unfortunately, if you’re a kid who’s participating in a sport like swimming in California, you potentially may have lost some recruiting opportunities.”

Still, though the season has been very different and difficult for a number of swimmers, the team is gradually adapting.

“All of the swimmers have been extremely positive, and our coaches have been working extremely hard to stay positive despite the issues this season,” Stuart said. “Overall, this season has been very different, but still very enjoyable."

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