Before and After Covid
As a former swimmer at Lewiston High School, I wanted to look back at the good times pre-Covid and how the team has changed since. six of my former teammates look back at their times on the team pre Covid and three of them explain to me how it was during Covid
Swimming in high school was something that I enjoyed greatly, despite nearly quitting my first season. I only swam pre-Covid. Emily Founier, a teammate of mine, mentions how she thought before Covid it was a better atmosphere: everyone was there at the meets cheering you on, and practices felt a lot more lighthearted. Similarly, Brandon Lynch told me that swimming was fun with the traditions and the competition. They stayed on the team after I graduated, and their thoughts changed. Emily told me, “At first it felt really weird; I was kind of scared to get … [Covid] in general because I had a high-risk family.” If they were out of swimming because they got Covid, they would get pushed back in progress because they would have missed all of those practices. “Especially when I did end up getting Covid, my lungs were somewhat affected. I kept getting headaches which was frustrating, but I had to adapt.” She also mentioned that the only people at the meets were the team, so it was hard to swim in front of no one. Brandon echoes that in virtual swim meets, the need to wear a mask when out of the pool after an event was problematic because it would be soaked.
A teammate of both Emily and Brandon was Kenzie Garcia. She was not a teammate of mine but a coworker of mine. She told me that they had to social distance and wear masks at all times when they weren’t swimming and that all of the meets were at home, but they had to do zoom meets. During her sophomore year, she was able to not wear a mask and be close to her friends, which was a better experience. She also played volleyball for a club team, but Covid canceled that, and so she started in high school, but it was not advertised very well. She then tells me that she mainly did swimming for the workouts because it got her into great shape. Plus, she just loved being in the pool and swimming. It wasn’t about the times for her, but rather, it was about everything else.
Sophia Turgeon, who graduated in 2019 had been swimming for 8 years and loved the sport. She tells me that the team was so close that we even chose to spend time together at each other’s homes after practices and meets. She graduated before me and Covid, “I can’t imagine how difficult the sport must have been throughout the pandemic, we had countless traditions that I am sure had to be put on hold”. Her favorite moments from high school swim were the themed spaghetti dinners, the nights where the women’s swimming team spent time making posters for the KVACS meet and States, and the end-of-season water polo game. When she looks back on her time on the swimming team, her favorite moments were team-bonding activities rather than the sport itself. Turgeon is a senior attending the University of Maine Farmington, and they don’t have a swimming team, but rather a swimming club. She decided to take a break from the sport during her freshman year, but never joined due to Covid. She has swam independently but never for another team.
Libby Forgues tells me that swimming before Covid was a lot more relaxed. “We didn’t have to worry about following government rules and we were able to be closer as a team both physically and emotionally. When Covid first entered the team, they didn’t really know what to think of it. We had to follow the rules of masking and social distancing which made swimming as a team very difficult. The YWCA is a small area for 30 kids to swim, and it changed the team’s whole” practice routine. She tells me they were forced to swim practice into two groups, which meant people were in the pool less than we originally were. Pre-Covid practice was an hour and a half. Traditions were huge for the team, but Covid changed that as Forgues, and my other teammates, have told me. “There are many changes in traditions that we did on the same team that were affected through Covid, [with] some being spaghetti dinners for example, we were not able to meet up to celebrate before meets because of masking and social distancing,” said Forgues. “Also, for traditions like playing games in the pool or even just going to meet, we weren’t able to do it because Covid was a huge impact.”
Forgues was the captain both before and after Covid, and she tells me that it was challenging during Covid because it was hard to unite and that it was difficult to connect in the ways that we used to. Forgues indicates the challenge of swimming against your teammates because you didn’t have the power and fuel to overcome the challenges that you put on yourself and force yourself to do better than yourself. Her brother was on the team before she was, and because of the dynamic he had on the swim team, she wanted that as well, so she joined the team.
Brooke Cloutier says that swimming was great before Covid. “It’s always been fun for me, and it was something I did year round. Swim[ming] has always been something that I have been dedicated to even during Covid,she said. Her favorite moment from high school swim was winning the State Championship in the 100 breast after coming in second and third for the last couple of years and getting the school record. “Being able to get higher than second and finally get a win was a great feeling for me.” As many swimmers have echoed, her favorite part about high school swimming was the almost weekly spaghetti dinners with the team before a meet. She has amazing memories from these dinners. Cloutier prefers College swimming because she can train with multiple people who are at her level and push her to get better. Being able to train with 50+ people who are at your skill level is a more fulfilling environment overall. She has multiple people she can race during practice, and they all motivate each other. “These are all people who have dedicated a lot of time and energy into the sport, which is a lot more different than a high school team where not everyone takes it seriously,” says Cloutier, who swims at Wheaton College, where the swimming team is also big on providing support to everyone. “We cheer each other on during practice and for every single race at a meet. We have a no phone rule and no sitting rule (except for diving breaks) on deck at a meet. This allows us to be in the moment and really get into the meet mentally. The overall energy is completely different.”
Elena Ray looks back on her swim days as a great time when she enjoyed the team as it was a healthy, supportive, and positive environment where the team was one. She recalls all the social events that we did as a team, where she met most of her friends in high school. She mentions how she may not have been the best swimmer, but swam for the social aspect of the team. Her favorite aspect was the spaghetti dinners where we got close together as a team as we had theme nights that bonded us together. She also mentioned that while the meets were not the most fun, she felt proud of herself and her teammates after the events and the meet itself. Elena did quit the team, so I asked if she regrets the decision, and she answered that she doesn’t regret the decision, but she definitely mentioned that she missed it and her teammates, but she recalls that it was the right decision for her at the time because she was busy with work and school and ultimately thinks that quitting the team was the best thing for her at the time.
Elena mentions that she was not the best swimmer, but as her teammate, she was one amazing swimmer and competitor. I enjoyed having as a teammate, which is true about everyone who was kind enough to answer these questions because, as they all mentioned, this is a close team even after we graduated and moved one. All my teammates were amazing swimmers and competitors. While from year to year, there was change; there is not a group of teammates that I’d want more to go to battle with than all my teammates from all four years of swimming.