The Hillsdale College swimming team is looking to hold virtual meets this season as coaches explore ways to compete during the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Kurt Kirner said he met last week with the coaches of the Great Midwest Athletic and the Mountain East conferences to discuss alternatives to in-person meets.
“We’re looking into the possibility of doing virtual meets, where teams compete in their events at their pool, and the other teams compete in their events in their own pool,” Kirner said. “And if we do it through Zoom synchronously, we can see what the results are.”
According to Kirner, schools can still hold their own practices and meets because swimming is considered to be one of the lowest-risk sports.
“You know, it’s harder for it to linger in [the pool] since chlorine does kill coronavirus,” he said. “We’re in a much better position than the sports that are playing indoors and courts, or play out there where there’s contact.”
Senior team captain Katherine Heeres said the Chargers are taking new precautions to continue practicing together this season.
“We haven’t started official practice yet, but we have to split up the team in half,” she said. “We can only have 12 people in the pool at a time, and there’s one person on each end of the lane.”
Although the team is thankful to practice together, Heeres admitted that it has been challenging to fully welcome the freshmen.
“It’s been kind of hard to get the freshmen integrated in our team, especially since we have seven of them. We’re trying to figure out some strategies to still bond as a team,” Heeres said. “We’ve traditionally had a really good team atmosphere, especially last year, and we really want to keep that going because it’s something valuable.”
As for now, the Chargers have developed a training plan that will allow them to stay in shape until the normal season resumes.
“Right now we’re basically training as we would in the off season,” Heeres said. “So that’s only eight hours a week of required team activity and practices, and then basically once we know what the status of our championship meet will be, whether it’s happening at the normal time in February or if it’s pushed back, that will help let us know when we can move into our normal season which is 20 hours a week, because we can only have 144 days of training season.”
According to Kirner, COVID-19 is not likely to harm the swimmers on the team. Rather, he’s concerned that their performance will suffer if they have to stop practicing before the start of their competitive season.
“I think this will bring more awareness and I’m hoping that once we get this under control, we have better things in place so that if kids are catching things, you’re not as susceptible,” he said. “Hopefully we’re coming up with some better ways outside of the pool to not bring things into the pool.”