Girls swim and dive team seated at the top of their conference

The+girls+swim+team+practices+as+this+season%E2%80%99s+sectional+meet+approaches.+Due+to+the+COVID-19+pandemic%2C+their+season+looks+much+different+than+in+previous+years.%0A

Reprinted with permission from Ella Sorensen

The girls swim team practices as this season’s sectional meet approaches. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their season looks much different than in previous years.

Abby Thibodeau, Layout Editor

The girls swim and dive team has continued to dominate despite limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While their meets and practices may look a bit different this fall, the girls are undefeated and coach Brian Luke is leading them to this season’s sectional meet.

This year will mark Luke’s 46th year coaching the swim and dive team, but this season is far different than anything he has seen. He has turned the team into a powerhouse, having won the sectional championships every year since 2002.

Sophomore Hannah Bliss has been competing for junior varsity this season.

“We have a really good coach, he works pretty hard, and the majority of the time we want to work hard and get better,” Bliss said. She is excited to be a part of the team’s dual meet winning streak.

In order to keep teammates healthy, swimmers have been required to wear a mask outside of the pool and maintain social distancing. Additionally, the girls have not been allowed to use the locker rooms.

“We’ve been really lucky in Stillwater because our district has been really good with trying to keep kids safe, but also allowing them to participate, which is really good,” Luke said.

While competitions have been allowed to continue, a limit on the number of swimmers at meets means that roughly half of the team attends each event. The athletes are required to stay on their half of the pool and spectators are not allowed. As a result, the competitions are live streamed for parents to watch.

“It’s weird because usually we have every other lane. And now we’re in blocks so it’s not as competitive because we’re next to our own teammates versus surrounded by the other team,” junior Ella Sorensen explained.

Contrary to the uncertainty of the upcoming boys swim season, the girls team is almost finished with their season. The state meet has been canceled due to COVID-19, so their end of season meet will be sectionals.

“I wish we were going to have the true team state, you know, this year’s team is really actually pretty dang good,” Luke said.

Because the girls team is so large, the team was split into two different practice sections to allow social distancing. The first group begins at 1:15 p.m., so middle schoolers need to attend the second session because of their school’s schedule. This means some girls are unable to utilize their teacher’s office hours, making it difficult for them to receive extra help if needed.

Bliss explained that she has gotten used to balancing her time between schoolwork and practice, and she has actually had a little bit more time for school due to the slightly shorter split practices.

Unfortunately, the team has missed out on their usual bonding festivities due to safety precautions. They were unable to host their meals and banquets.

Sorensen has been close to her teammates for seven seasons, but now “it’s really hard to get to know all the new girls.” She added that it is sad the two groups cannot interact this year.

“I just want to say the Stillwater administration athletic department has been really helpful and understanding of what’s going on and I truly appreciate their efforts on keeping our programs going,” Luke said.

Coach Brian Luke: “I wish we were going to have the true team state, you know, this year’s team is really actually pretty dang good.”