Greyhound swimming's excitement and anticipation turned to disappointment just a little over an hour after they arrived at Bucknell University for the PIAA Class 2A Swimming Championships Thursday following the PIAA’s decision to postpone the meet at the last minute for a minimum of two weeks, citing coronavirus concerns.
For the Greyhounds, it was a tough pill to swallow. The state meet was what they had trained for all season, and now they are left in a state of limbo.
“It's a very strange situation for everybody,” Greyhound swim coach Chandler Johnson said Sunday. “This is the pinnacle of all of their seasons. YMCA Nationals was cancelled prior to states. For our four girls, not to mention countless other swimmers, this was it for them.”
According to Coach Johnson, he and the other other swim coaches learned of the postponement just after they arrived at Bucknell, and the coaches were the ones tasked with breaking the news to their respective teams.
“It was difficult. The fact that everybody was there, that was the most disheartening part,” he recalled. “We were in this mindset that it is time to swim.
“I think in the back of everybody's mind there was a little bit of fear that something like this could happen. Kids were I'm sure seeing that you have all these professional sports and college sports that are shutting down. The general consensus [for most of the teams] was that we were there and it was going to happen. We were going to get through this, we've prepared for it, and whatever happens from Saturday on we'll deal with that as we get there.”
The 3A portion of the meet was stopped midway through, without the scheduled finals and consolation finals Thursday evening. All medals were awarded based on their preliminary swims.
The question now, a few days later, is whether the 2A participants will get to swim at all.
“Hearing schools are closed until [March 30], that's past when we were told this meet was going to take place. You are left in a hard situation,” said the Ship head coach. “We can't practice in our pool, every school district in the state is not allowed to practice in their facilities.
“I am hoping for everyone's sake, for coaches, athletes and families to have some sort of piece of mind. I hate to say it but you kind of see the writing on the wall, but at this point it would be nice to know this is what is going to happen or the meet is not going to happen just to get these kids out of this limbo that they are in.”
The Greyhounds were poised to do damage at the state meet. Junior Julia Strine is a two-time state medalist in the 100 breaststroke, finishing 4th in the state last year as a sophomore. Their three other state qualifiers: senior Maddie Osanitsch, senior Makenna Morris and freshman Jillian Strine all had tremendous opportunities to earn state medals both in individual events and in relays.
Coach Johnson, along with Greyhound assistant coach Deb Hoffman, have tried to use the tough circumstances as a teaching moment for the entire team.
“We sent a message to all of our kids, not just the state swimmers, for them to take a step back and appreciate what they've got,” he said. “As a 17-year swimmer at all levels, I remember being in their position. I hated swim practice, and at times said I don't want to do it anymore. But if you ask anybody that has gone through the sport if they would do it again, everyone says yes, I would do all the terrible practices again.
“This should be a little bit of an eye-opener that you've got to enjoy the opportunities that you have and cherish the memories you are making, because you just never know when they can end. In high school sports you've got four years. They go very quickly and when it's over, it's over you don't get any of it back.”