As perennial NCAA Division III powerhouses, Kenyon’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are accustomed to success. However, this year, they will be forced to achieve their goals in a very different way. For the squad of swimmers, it will be a year of self-improvement and building for the future, as COVID-19 has crushed any hopes of an official season.
On Feb. 3, the NCAA Division III announced the cancellation of all 2021 winter championships. Kenyon’s swimming teams’ competitive schedule now consists of just one meet at Carnegie Mellon University during the first week of April, which will have no impact on North Coast Athletic Conference or NCAA rankings. Despite the cancellation of the winter championships, the team is still hoping for an all-around successful year, aiming to use this semester to improve on their times and build team chemistry.
During the quiet period, the athletes still had pool access, albeit without coaches. Since restrictions were lifted, coaches have returned to practices, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols.
The Lords are without the majority of their upperclass teammates, who have decided to take the year off in order to have another year of NCAA eligibility. Therefore, with many swimmers deferred, underclass athletes are more reliant on guidance from coaches. Ania Axis ’23 praised coaches Jess Book and Fernando Rodriguez for their work over the last year. “They do a great job of keeping us motivated,” Axis said.
New living situations due to COVID-19 have created greater opportunities for close intra-team relationships: the sophomore Lords swimmers are all residing in Gund Residence Hall, while the sophomore Ladies are all residing on McBride Residence Hall’s third floor. Of course, with Kenyon’s COVID-19 protocols in place, large indoor gatherings are not permitted. Upperclass students living in apartments are allowed to congregate in small groups. For the rest of the athletes, living near teammates has prompted them to spend significant time with one another. “Spending time with teammates in common spaces and at practice always brightens up my day,” said Colin Bowling ’23.
For the first years that weren’t able to return to campus and the upperclass swimmers who decided to take the year off, this semester has been a chance to refine their individual skills in the pool, without the stress of peer competition. Many upperclass Lords swimmers are living in North Carolina, and five first years are living together in Clermont, Fla. The first-year swimmers, Daniel Brooks ’24, Jimmy Hart ’24, Noah Althoff ’24, Peter Landis ’24 and Max Nonnenmacher ’24, are continuing to train three to five days a week and are working hard to stay in contact with their teammates. The team is looking forward to having their first years join them on campus next fall, and returning to collegiate competition in the winter.