Nauset Swimmers Making The Best Of Virtual Season

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: School Sports , Swimming , Nauset High School

From left: Nauset freshman Will Crowell, junior John Szucs and sophomore Kaitlin Bohannon try to keep their masks dry after a training heat during practice Jan. 21 at Willy’s Gym in Eastham. BRAD JOYAL PHOTO

EASTHAM – If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we possess the ability to adjust our daily lives.

We’ve worn masks and social distanced from one another. We’ve also altered the way we learn and work, the way we communicate and the way we congregate, often turning to technology to help us feel connected with each other.

This way of living has crept into sports, too, as some high school teams throughout the state have had to go “virtual” in order to keep their seasons alive. Among the programs conducting a virtual season are the Nauset Regional High School boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving teams.

Although it’s different, the Warriors said they’re thrilled to compete in some form.

“I’m just grateful that we’re able to have this opportunity to swim,” said senior Emma Pike-Stein, who serves as a co-captain for the girls’ team alongside classmates Catie Crowell and Delaney Smith. “It’s definitely very different from previous years, but I think we’re making the best of it.”

The reality of COVID-19 carries a constant presence in the pool, as the swimmers are regularly reaching for their masks between heats. Nauset is practicing and competing at Willy’s Gym in Eastham, though the competitions are much different than past seasons.

One key difference: Teams must compete on their own at their respective pools. Once all of their times are tallied, the coaches coordinate with each other to crunch the numbers and determine a winner.

The Warriors’ swimmers have taken part in four meets, yet they haven’t seen or heard their opponents. Another weird wrinkle is the fact the teams leave Willy’s and head home after their meets without even knowing how they fared.

“We’re not allowed to cheer either, which is definitely tough,” pointed out boys’ captain John Szucs, a junior. “Sometimes I’ll slip and forget. We’re all getting used to the protocols we have to follow.”

Both the boys and girls used their times from a Jan. 15 meet for competitions against Nantucket and St. John Paul II. They held another virtual meet one week later against Barnstable and Plymouth North.

The boys stand at 3-1, with their lone loss coming against Nantucket. The girls are 2-2, having earned victories over St. John Paul II and Barnstable.

The athletes aren’t the only ones getting used to the virtual season. Jenn Stevens, who’s serving as the coach for both teams in place of Justin Bohannon, who typically leads the programs but decided to sit out this year due to COVID-19, is also getting used to the changes.

Stevens said one of the obstacles she faced during the Jan. 15 meet was setting up the video so people could watch the meet virtually, a key component given that spectators aren’t allowed to attend meets this year.

“Last week was tough,” admitted Stevens. “We had to try to figure out a lot of technology we’ve never done before, like Facebook Live, to try to get the meet to the parents at the same time we’re trying to get the equipment working.

“It was our first time and there were a couple snafus, but we finally got it working, so that was good.”

It’s that sort of go-with-the-flow outlook the Warriors are carrying this year. That includes Smith, the co-captain who’s committed to dive at the University of Rhode Island next year.

Smith hasn’t been able to dive yet this year because Willy’s doesn’t have diving boards, though she’s hopeful she’ll get an opportunity to compete over the weekend at Duxbury High School.

“I’m hoping to have my first diving meet on Jan. 30 in Duxbury,” the senior said. “It’s just hard because I don’t have access to Sandwich or Nantucket, and they’re the only two teams with boards (on the Cape and Islands).”

Although the Nauset boys and girls would make plenty of changes about this season if they were given the chance, there’s one positive aspect of the virtual season the kids continue to cling to. Even if the virtual landscape isn’t ideal, it keeps the Warriors in the pool, and that’s all that matters to them.

“It’s definitely weird but I think a lot of us are just happy to be in the water,” Szucs said.

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com