Not many coaches or athletes can find a silver lining during this fluid and everchanging COVID-19 crisis.
Competitions hang in the balance on a daily basis because of ongoing coronavirus concerns, positive test results and contact tracing.
However, Janesville Parker boys swim coach Eric Rhodes said one good thing has come out of all of this.
“Our practices are a lot shorter than they used to be,” Rhodes said. “Instead of getting out of here by 6 or so, kids are leaving by 5:30, if not before that. They see the practice schedule on the board, get in the pool and get it done. Nobody is standing around or anything, which is good.
“We’re trying to make practice and meets as normal as we can. We all know this can be taken away at anytime.”
Like all other winter indoor sports, the WIAA has implemented strict COVID-19 guidelines for swim. Masks are required at all times, except for when swimming, and no more than four swimmers are allowed in a lane at one time during practice. Rhodes said Parker usually has three to a lane and has it set up where the only time swimmers cross paths is in the middle of the pool and not on either end.
Only dual meets can be scheduled, with Saturday invitationals not allowed. The Big Eight Conference is not allowing competitions for winter sports, so all Craig and Parker meets will be nonconference duals.
Fans are not allowed at this time at any meets, but both Parker and Janesville Craig are working on having a livestream available to watch online for all home meets.
Parker opens the season tonight. Rhodes said that although he only has 13 swimmers on his roster, he expects the Vikings to be competitive.
Rhodes said senior Ben Rahlf is poised for a big season as the team’s most versatile swimmer—specializing in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly.
“Ben’s really motivated this season and swims likes he’s angry,” Rhodes said. “He just attacks the water and should benefit from being a club swimmer, as well.”
Junior Zhander Rowley is the team’s top breaststroker, while senior Aaron Griffith will swim the sprint freestyle events and the backstroke.
Rhodes is also expecting junior Jackson Ryan and freshman Zack Payne to have an impact on the team’s success.
Craig has already swam two meets, including an impressive win over two-time defending Division 2 state champion Madison Edgewood on Tuesday night.
First-year coach Matt Palma has been impressed with what he’s seen thus far.
“They’re working hard and making the best of the situation,” Palma said. “My goal for them is to do their best every day and take things one day at a time. No one is just standing around. They’re putting their work in.
“We know things can change today, by the end of the week or whenever. You just have to make the most of it.”
Palma said sophomore Ben Witt is the team’s most versatile swimmer and the top butterflyer on the team.
Junior David Cummings will handle the freestyle sprint events, while senior Kadin Wojcik gives Palma the option of putting him in any event.
Palma also said senior Carson Dooman will be counted on in the freestyle distance events.