Swim & Dive team works to stay afloat: Gusties remain optimistic through uncertain times

Swim teams across the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) are expecting yet another disruption to their season. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is nearing a decision that would delay the Division III Swimming & Diving National Championship until March 2021. While the announcement has not yet been made, the Gustavus Swim & Dive team is planning accordingly.
“The decision still needs to go to the NCAA Management Council, but it is expected to pass. There are a lot of teams in Division III that are either doing distance learning or are not allowing team practices this fall. Because these schools are starting their training essentially on Jan. 1, the NCAA is planning to push back the Swimming & Diving Championships by two weeks. Because of this, the qualifying period for nationals is also being pushed back. With the MIAC Championships being the main meet to qualify for Nationals, we want to be as close to the end of the qualifying period as possible,” Head Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Coach Jon Carlson said.
The expected shift from the NCAA will affect the timeline of lower levels of competition as well. The MIAC will likely postpone its conference championship that was originally scheduled for Feb. 17-20, 2021. Last season, the Gustavus Men’s Swimming & Diving team took first place in the MIAC. This season, the team may have to wait an additional couple of weeks to defend their title.
For now, Coach Carlson and his athletes are focused on getting ready for the season, whatever it may look like.
“I don’t think about the possibility of the season being canceled. I focus on what we know now, and what we need to do each day to prepare for what is currently planned. We are just thankful that we are planning to have a MIAC Championship. We’ll deal with whatever we have to in order to be able to compete for a conference title,” Carlson said.
The likely delay has not affected the focus of the team. Throughout the pandemic, rapidly changing plans have become a normal part of life. While the news of the delay is disappointing, the team remains resilient.
“The news about the delay is kind of difficult, but knowing that we will still have a season is good enough for a lot of us. Not being able to compete for now sucks, but being able to practice and get a little more preparation time is a silver lining in all of this,” Senior Swimmer Sam Deyak said.
The anticipated delay has been a disappointment to some athletes. There’s a silver lining, though; The competition season may be extended a few weeks. Some athletes fear that the delay may set a precedent that could lead to sports seasons ultimately being canceled.
“The decision to push back sporting events does make me nervous. I can only hope that the conference does not continue to postpone competition until seasons are indefinitely canceled. However, I know that the people making these decisions are more informed than I am, and they are doing everything they can to see that a conference meet and competition in general still happens,” Senior Swimmer Amelia Bjorklund said.
Athletes across all sports are worried about the future of their sports seasons. Guidelines set by organizations such as the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 so activities such as sports seasons can take place. Athletes, especially seniors, are anxious they won’t get the chance to compete this school year.
“Obviously, this is not the senior year that [I], or any other members of my class, envisioned. However, something that our coach has always emphasized is that the seniors are supposed to be the leaders on the team. We are the ones who need to set the atmosphere for the season. If one of us is negative, then there will be underclassmen looking up to us who will catch our negativity and have a bad mindset too. The seniors are mainly focused on making the best of whatever season we will have,” Bjorklund said.
Keeping a positive attitude through the twists and turns of a season, especially one occurring during a pandemic, is important for athletes to do. Ultimately, the uncertainty of the upcoming season is stressful, but Gusties are doing their best to stay focused.
“I’m stressed, but very optimistic. If we can be doing campus activities using mitigation techniques, there’s no reason we can’t have a season. If our season was canceled, I would be very upset. In a lot of ways, my teammates and I need our season; it’s the reason we all came to Gustavus. Sports keep us motivated, and mentally and physically healthy. We’re gonna do everything in our power to make sure we can have a season. Go Gusties,” Deyak said.