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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

First-year athletes look back on their 7.5 weeks on campus

Photo by Andrew Tucker

“I came to Grinnell knowing I was going to be living with the swimmers, I didn’t expect for all of us to become so close,” Megan Bernacchi `24 said.

Bernacchi is a swimmer for Grinnell College. She came to campus for Spring Term 1 and headed back to Champaign, Illi. during spring break for the second term.

“As much as it sucks that we were only able to stay seven weeks, the fact that I was able to leave and miss them as much as I do is a real testament to how well we got along and how incredibly awesome our team culture is.”

In the short time first-year athletes were on campus, they managed to form close bonds with their teammates and floormates. In some ways the pandemic helped with that, giving them shared experiences and a constant topic to complain about, but it also meant ripping away some of the first-years’ time together and sending most of them home at the end of Spring Term 1.

Bernacchi noted that her swim experience was unexpectedly great. She said her coaches managed to create good workouts despite the limited time the swim team was able to access the pool.

Her teammates were also a highlight. “Just the support and encouragement from my teammates to get through the sets was something I missed with all these COVID times.”

Shared experiences of the pandemic helped facilitate their friendship. “We were all able to bond over the fact that we didn’t have prom,” Bernacchi said. “We didn’t have graduation or spirit weeks, and that just created a bond that we wouldn’t have been able to establish as early.”

We were all able to bond over the fact that we didn’t have prom. – Megan Bernacchi

The track team also formed strong bonds during the first term, which has continued into the second term. Brian Goodell `24 said that the track team, which was invited to stay on campus for their spring season, is closely knit together in part because of their practices, but almost more so because of their living situation.

Many of the first-year track students lived on the 4th floor of Norris Hall. “There will just be a horde of us walking over from Norris to the track,” Goodell said.

During the first term, all of the track students got individual attention from the coaches because of the small number of students. This changed slightly in the second term when more team members came on campus. More athletes with the same number of coaches means less individual focus. Naturally, the team dynamics shifted to accommodate the change.

“It felt like there was a bit of a division, all the first-years knew each other, and all the upperclassmen knew each other from previous years,” Goodell said. The divide lessened as the first-years got to know the upperclassmen, and Goodell said that he has gotten to know the upperclassmen who run the same events as him.

Bernacchi said she didn’t expect to meet the upperclassman before having to leave campus, but there were four seniors on the swim team who were around and spent time with her and the team.

One of the seniors on the swim team, Justin Chen `21, spent a lot of time with them. “He became sort of our mentor,” Bernacchi said. “He would have races with some of the first-years and they would have a tally on the board to see who had won most of the races.”

Goodell said their training feels different now that they have the ability to go to competitions, a decision released on March 19 accompanying the College’s shift to “Blue” on the campus activity scale. Before the announcement that competition would resume in the spring, Goodell said, “some of us first-years said it felt weird to not have a goal, and there wasn’t a lot of motivation.” He said having a goal makes practices more focused on improvement instead of staying in good condition.

It felt weird to not have a goal. – Brian Goodell

Outside of team activities, both the swim team and track team spend a majority of their time together.

“From the moment we woke up to the moment we went to sleep we were together,” Bernacchi said. “We would do extra practices on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, help each other out with technique. We’d do sets together just in our free time.”

Bernacchi said that she and her teammates had movie nights, played video games in spare time and “there was always a card or board game going on somewhere in the lounge.” During boring days, they would walk around the town for hours or go into the cornfields to stargaze.

Goodell said his most memorable time with the track team was taking trays from the Dining Hall to go sledding and drinking hot chocolate and starting snowball fights. Because most of the first-year track students lived on the same floor, there were floor wide nerf wars in the thin hallways of Norris.

“There was one night that we had nothing going on, it was so unremarkable I can’t even remember which day it was,” Bernacchi said, her voice warm as she remembered playing cards in the lounge. “It was such an amazing night and I remember thinking, if this is what the next three years are going to be like, it’ll be so amazing. The complete and utter normality of it, it was so ordinary. If this is going to become my ordinary, I’ll be so happy.”

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