Not your typical Mason swim season

Ella Gilmore, Staff Reporter

starting block
The normal swim practices and meets typical of a Mason swim season have had to drastically change in the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Jo Sevier)

While swimming may not be the first thing that comes to mind for many people in the middle of winter, it certainly does for those on the George Mason swim team. However, this year provided a set of extra obstacles for athletes on the team.

“This year we’ve had a lot of changes compared to a typical season,” said senior and girls’ team captain Maddy Dubois. “For starters, practices have been split into two main groups, so we only get to see half the team at practices. We have also had to bring less people to meets, since exhibition swimmers aren’t traveling with the team this year.”

Along with a shorter roster, swim meets are missing fans that usually filled the bleachers on the pool deck. Swimmers also have to keep a mask on at all times unless they’re swimming in their event. This applies to practices as well.

“I think that going into the season we thought that cheering and overall team spirit would be hard to replicate this year since everyone is spread out, causing meets to feel more individualistic rather than a team sport. But I feel that the team has done a great job of cheering for everyone this season and we’ve had enthusiastic meets,” Dubois said.

It’s not just swim meets that have been limited to a reduced number of swimmers. Practices have also been altered in order to meet COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. The team has been split into two separate practice groups, with one group swimming on Mondays and the other group swimming on Wednesdays.

“Between laps at practices, I miss being able to chat with others close by and catch up with them informally while we’re resting on the wall,” said senior and boys team co-captain Jonah Werbel.

Another thing that’s missing from this year’s season: team bonding outside of the pool.

“I don’t think the whole team has ever been in the same place at the same time this season, so it’s strange to not have that same camaraderie which naturally arises out of being a close-knit group,” Werbel said.

In the past, the swim team has had team pasta dinners, end-of-season parties, and other team-building activities such as laser tag.

“In normal years, we all go out to eat after [swim] meets. Now, after getting off the bus, we all just go our separate ways and it feels so final. Those meals gave us a chance to unwind, celebrate our victory, and hang out. It’s been difficult to adapt to not having those, and the meet just being over. The team still has fun together, but it’s weird not to unwind together after.”

However, the team has managed to stay positive and participated in three swim meets against Central High School, Maggie Walker Governor’s, Brentsville, and Manassas Park. On Thursday, February 4, the swim team will compete at Regionals at Colgan High School in Prince William County. The top four swimmers in each event will advance to States on February 14.

“For me, the best part of our team is just how everyone has a good time together, and how we always cheer each other on,” Werbel said. “I’ll definitely miss this team; it’s been a good four years.”