Swim and dive teams continue practice without hope of a season

Celeste+Kaspar+21%2C+seen+here+in+November+of+2019%2C+has+been+practicing+her+diving+this+fall.+Photo+contributed+by+Ted+Schultz.+

Celeste Kaspar ’21, seen here in November of 2019, has been practicing her diving this fall. Photo contributed by Ted Schultz.

Ben Mikek

Even though athletic competition is on hold because of the pandemic, Grinnell’s swimming and diving teams continue to hold scaled down practices at the Bear Recreation and Athletic Center. Four times per week since Oct. 5, about 10 swimmers and a lone diver have been practicing in the Russell K. Osgood pool.

“It’s been nice to have access to the pool, definitely, during this time,” said Celeste Kaspar ’21, the diver. “The diving well is sectioned off from the other lanes, so it is just me over there, so when I go over, I can take my mask off and use the boards without being near anyone.”

For the lucky few who are able to practice in person – students who were approved to live on- or off-campus by the Department of Residence Life – the swimming is very similar to a regular year except that practices last only one hour as opposed to their normal two-hour time slots. Outside the pool, though, team members must wear masks until they jump in the water, and coaches wear masks and face shields the entire time. Locker rooms at the Bear are closed, so swimmers must come wearing clothes over their swimsuits. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been in contact with someone who has in the past two weeks do not participate in practices.

Standard lanes are eight feet wide, and each swimmer has a lane to themselves, so social distancing is maintained even in the water, according to Sarah Weltz ’21, a captain of the women’s swim team.

Kaspar follows similar COVID-19 precautions, but for her, practices have differed more from the norm.

“If I bring my computer to the pool I can Zoom [my diving coach] in and set it up on a bench near the diving boards so he can see me virtually,” she said. “I can connect a speaker to my computer so I can hear him and talk to him when I’m on the boards, and it’s been working really well actually, surprisingly.”

Only those who are part of the College’s official COVID-19 testing roster, including faculty and staff, have access to the natatorium. That means that team members and students living off campus unofficially can’t participate in practices.

To combat this division, and the fact that many of the nearly 50 members of the women’s swimming and diving Team aren’t in Grinnell at all, Weltz and her team members have organized video conference get-togethers to stay in touch.

“We have definitely been trying to keep the team together. It’s hard since the team is huge and it’s really hard to retain everyone, but we do weekly ‘swim tables,’” said Weltz. “The idea was to mimic D-Hall, so we have just an open Zoom where people can come in and just talk and chat.”

The key to maintaining team cohesion, said Weltz, is involving first- and second-year students. “When I was a first-year, the third-years and fourth-years really helped in every aspect, so we tried to do a buddy system with first-years and second-years,” she said. “We match them as kind of a buddy who they could talk to and reach out to.”

Whether over Zoom or in person, the swimming and diving team is pushing forward, even though they aren’t preparing for a normal spring competition season.

“It’s mostly seniors and obviously we don’t have a season and it’s not like we’re training for anything in the future because we’re graduating after this, but I think the fact that all the seniors are still showing up and practicing is huge,” said Weltz. “We still all enjoy the sport, even if we might not be competing in the future.”