By Luke Mich
As March arrived, both swimming teams were awaiting the PAC Championships that occurred throughout the first week of the month. But COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges this season. One challenge was the lack of meets for both the men’s and women’s teams, a result of the season starting nearly three months later than usual yet still ending around early March. And most of those meets scheduled for the women’s team did not occur.
“Most of our meets cancelled due to COVID,” said Erica Steele, a sophomore management major who competes in free style events. She noted that a few swimmers, including herself, received positive COVID-19 tests, leading to weeks of quarantine.
“Most of the girls’ team had two meets [before PAC Championships] while I have only had one,” Steele said. Steele revealed that she was in quarantine for the team’s first meet on Feb. 5 against Westminster after receiving a positive COVID-19 test two weeks earlier. Steele was able to compete in the second meet, also against Westminster, on Feb. 25.
Another obstacle was the waiting time for test results.
“One member of our team tested positive shortly after the first meet which led to over half the team needing to quarantine and get tested,” Steele explained.
However, those test results did not arrive as planned, with some swimmers noting that the initial PCR tests were sent out by mail to a lab in Kentucky, only for them to get lost in a major snowstorm. As a result, the women’s team had to cancel three meets in the regular season. Swimmers in quarantine subsequently received rapid tests which all came back, and the team was able to have one more meet before PAC championships.
Even Head Coach Josh Gurekovich has been affected by the obstacles, with his family members all receiving positive COVID-19 tests in late February. Gurekovich said that none of his family members had severe symptoms, though he missed the conference championships and the immediate practices preceding it. Graduate Assistant Joseph North, Assistant Coach Jym Walters and Head Golf Coach Samantha Firestone attended the conference championship meets to coach and assist the team in Gurekovich’s place.
“I was very fortunate to find a GA that started with the team in January, Joseph North. He has been implementing the workouts that I wrote. Jym Walters has also been a big help for meets,” Gurekovich said.
Though there have been a number of shortcomings and obstacles for the teams this season, Gurekovich noted a number of outstanding athletes.
“For the women’s team, Marion D’Aurora and Lauren Connors have been doing really well. On the men’s side Kevin Martin and Kris Smith have been leading the pack,” Gurekovich said.
As conference championships proceeded, Gurekovich said it was really hard to set expectations for his teams. He mentioned that the teams were more limited in the amount of training they had than their conference opponents due to the fact of swimmers contracting COVID-19 and/or being in quarantine for multiple weeks. But Gurekovich also acknowledged how proud he was of the Saint Vincent teams.
“This year has truly been challenging in many different ways. But I am thankful we have such an amazing group of men and women on this team. They have accepted the challenges forced on them through limited practices, quarantining and all the new COVID protocols. It is great to be able to work with athletes like that,” Gurekovich said.
The men’s and women’s swimming teams competed in the conference championships from March 1–5 at Grove City College. There are currently no future meets or plans for this season for either team.