Friday the 13th, morning meeting. Student Council has no announcements, so we cede the concrete block to Mr. Wells; I step off to the side. I have a friend’s AirPod, and “Oblivious” by The Strokes starts playing. Ironic, as the next few announcements capture my full attention: School will be canceled until spring break. The tumult of questions that follows fades into the rhythm of the music, and my mind is no longer at Country Day. It dives into the pool at Jesuit, flops onto the deck in Lodi, then flips into the water in Clovis.
What about the high school swim season?
At first, my mind could comprehend no longer going to physical classes, but it couldn’t register that there wouldn’t be a spring swim season.
In fact, my initial impression was “Sweet. The school just got a month-long spring break. Can’t wait to hang out with everyone!”
Of course, that isn’t the case. My club team was still practicing, but my parents were cautious about letting me attend since I was getting over strep throat. With my compromised immune system, even if I was dousing myself in chlorine, there was still a high risk of getting sick again.
There is a fear about missing practice: The more time you spend out of the pool, the worse your feel for the water is. Strep throat had kept me out of the water since March 10, and I was itching to get back in the pool and start practicing again.
On March 13 at 3 p.m., my coach sent out an email announcing that Friday afternoon practice was canceled, but we were scheduled to work out on Saturday and Sunday as usual.
UC Davis had closed its campus, which meant the Schaal Aquatic Center, where we usually practice, had shut down, sending DART scrambling to secure pool space.
Even though Friday’s workout had been canceled, I still had hope for the next month of practices.
I made it to Saturday practice but had to sit out on Sunday since I began coughing again.
On March 16, I packed my bag for afternoon practice and picked up my crochet needles and yarn. At 10:56 a.m., my coach sent out a text reassuring us that practices were optional because of the threat of COVID-19. I spent the day making a water-bottle carrier and was just snipping the yarn after the final knot when, at 1:28 p.m., I received another group text from my coach.
“DART practice canceled. Restrictions lowered to 10 people gathering so we have to cancel.”
In the next few hours, my team exchanged a flurry of anxiety-ridden texts. How were we supposed to train? Would we be split into groups of 10? No, the coaches wouldn’t want to spend all day on deck cycling through swimmers.
On March 17 at 11 a.m., the team received an email saying that practices would only be available for the swimmers who had qualified for the Olympic trials. Those lucky enough to have memberships to gyms with pools could receive a workout there, while everyone else was given at-home dryland options.
On March 23 at 9 a.m., pool practices for everyone ground to a halt. In just 10 days, the coronavirus had wiped out the high school season and the club season for the indefinite future. It also altered the course of athletes training for the Olympic trials, with both the trials and Olympics themselves being pushed into 2021.
One way to view this sudden collapse in structure can be described by the R.E.M. song “It’s The End Of The World.”
In the first couple of days, I felt disoriented: In a regular week, I have 30 hours (or more, depending on traffic) of swimming and driving, and finding things to fill that time was a struggle at first.
I wanted to hang out with school friends, swim friends, literally anyone. I wanted to go swimming (in a heated pool). I wanted things to be normal.
Five weeks later, I still want the same things, but I understand the gravity of our situation here in Sacramento. My family is learning how to cope with one another, and I’m learning how to do land sports, mainly biking. We are doing the best we can with the situation, searching for more ways to keep us in shape for when the world will begin to turn again.
On the bright side, I’ve found a new sport that I can fall in love with, and I’ve overcome my anxiety of phone calls.
For those of you who know about the time restrictions on my phone, I now have 20 whole minutes of screen time instead of 15 (wow! progress!), and I’ve taken up felting as well as crocheting little animals.
Plus, I’m teaching my mom how to paint, and we both tried a juice-cleanse diet together. (I lasted six days, she lasted three-quarters of a day, but it’s the thought that counts.)
When the crisis started, I mainly focused on what I was missing between in-person interaction and training in water. I’m still kind of in that mindset of despair over what I’m not doing, but I’m slowly starting to see opportunities.
Sure, I’d much rather be going out with my friends right now, but this quarantine has provided me with an awesome chance to explore new interests, improve different skills and get to know myself a little better.
—By Rebecca Waterson