Virginia Gators continue practice, despite cancellation of high school season

Mia Constantin, Print Editor in Chief

Despite there being no school sanctioned winter sports this year, the Virginia Gators of Harrisonburg are still swimming with COVID-19 guidelines in place. Practices for the Virginia Gators started in the summer of 2020. When the school year started, the practice times changed to accommodate different schedules. Both sophomore Noah Gabriele and junior Maddie McCay attend the early morning practice. 

“We have daily temperature checks, wear masks outside of the water and have swimmers starting from opposite sides of the pool. I go to practice [at] 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and 4:00 p.m. on Sundays,” Gabriele said. 

McCay enjoys the fact that morning practices help her stay awake during online school because it is very easy for her to fall asleep when watching a Google Meet. While she understands why the guidelines are in place, McCay still misses having group dryland workouts and double practices.

“I go from 5:30-7 am because I like swimming early so I can hop onto class when I get home and already be awake. The biggest challenge [with morning practice] is not looking at the clock too much. All I want to do at 5 in the morning is drive back to my bed,” McCay said. “We only swim once a day and there are no group dry lands. [We also are required to have] masks on the deck, [have] only two or three people to a lane and always social distancing. I feel like the restrictions for COVID-19 [with] swim have [become] a little lenient in the slightest. We still always have to wear masks and social distance in the lanes which I one hundred percent agree with.”

Both Gabriele and McCay have been swimming for a long time; McCay started at six, while Gabriele started at five years old. The pandemic brought on a huge lifestyle change for them because they didn’t have access to a pool for three months. 

“[When I was six], my mom put me in swimming so I would not drown when we went to the pool during the summer,” McCay said. “[Before COVID-19, we practiced] six days a week, twice a day every weekday plus dryland conditioning. At the time, I loved [the practice schedule]. I loved having a very strict schedule, but I never got much time for myself. Quarantine has made me realize that.” 

It is easier to social distance in the sport of swimming because of the size of the pool and lanes. Gabriele was excited to get back into the pool in the summer, but discouraged by the lack of practices. 

“With social distancing guidelines in place, we were able to have practice and [it] was good to get out of the house; [however], not having two practices a day has affected my endurance,” Gabriele said. 

Gabriele wants to pursue swimming in college and knows that the high school season for sophomores is peak improvement time if he wants to start the recruitment process his junior year. Therefore, Gabriele is disappointed he will not get a high school season this year, but realizes that it is important to take into consideration the amount of COVID-19 cases in the area. 

“I hope that we will have a high school season if COVID cases don’t get worse and we can maintain social distancing guidelines; [however], my goal for this high school season [would have been] to have fun,” Gabriele said. 

McCay is also planning on swimming collegiately, but the lack of meets and data available makes it hard for her to start recruitment. This has made it hard for her to search for schools that fit her criteria. 

“I definitely want to swim collegiately. I have not really chosen a certain place I want to swim in college. There are many good schools I am looking into. [I want to study] something along the lines of biology and medicine. I think kinesiology is a good choice for me,” McCay said. 

Overall, McCay was not excited for this high school season because of the retirement of longtime HHS swim and dive coach Richard Morrell; however, if she were to have had a season, McCay believes there would have been many small dual meets. 

“I am not that excited [for this high school season]. Our coach who I liked very, very much has retired and the meets will in no way be the same [because of COVID-19]. The thing I’m expecting most are really small meets [if we get to compete]. I think the meets will change because there will only be half of the normal people there and we will always have to wear masks. There will most likely be less meets. I think there will be only dual meets and no championships,” McCay said. 

Both McCay and Gabriele had a chance at the beginning of the school year to swim at two small intrasquad meets with their club team, and have experienced what a meet is like under COVID-19 guidelines; however, that was short-lived after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s new mandate made their club team pull out of a future meet.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email