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Swimmers adjust to life without pools

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Helen Pu/Thresher

By Daniel Schrager     4/7/20 9:30pm

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has completely uprooted the daily lives of so many, the entire country is constantly having to adjust. But for Rice student-athletes, the stakes are higher than most, given the pressure to stay in shape and train remotely. This is especially true for Rice’s swim team. With shelter-in-place orders taking effect in 42 states, and only “essential businesses” remaining open, pools and swimming facilities have been shuttered throughout the country. According to swimmer Rebecca Brandt, this has left much of the team unable to practice their craft.

“It has been tough for us to adjust to the situation, especially considering most of us have no access to any pools,” Brandt, a junior, said.

As the team begins their training for the next season, they are looking to improve on a strong 2020 performance. Highlighted by a No. 2 finish at the Conference USA Championships, this season saw four Owls receive first-team all-conference honors. Sophomore Marta Cano-Minarro was also named C-USA Co-Swimmer of the Year, the league office announced last week, becoming the first Owl in the history of the program to win or share this award.



The Owls’ season was cut short, if only by a little, as their last tournament of the year, the Collegiate Swim Coaches Association of America National Invitational tournament, was suspended after just one day of competition. For now, there is “no real urgency” to get back into the pool, according to head coach Seth Huston.

“We are focusing on each individual choosing and developing objectives that they feel they need to improve and grow in order to perform at a higher level,” Huston said.

That will change as the season draws nearer. Depending on the length of the quarantine, much of their offseason program could be in flux. According to Brandt, their current focus is just to get through these tough months so that they can pick up where they left off, whenever the team is able to reconvene.

“The goal is that when we all come back together in the fall, we will be in shape and ready to jump into the new season,” Brandt said.

In the meantime, swimmers are trying to find creative ways to train and stay in shape. Junior Brittany Bui, among those without access to a pool, says that she has taken up sprinting, core strength training, yoga and other exercises that each correspond with a specific form of training that she would normally do in the pool. According to Bui, the team must be resourceful in order to stay prepared.

“Though it is unfortunate we are unable to swim at this time, we just have to make do with what we have at home,” Bui said.

The team has also been holding meetings online in order to stay on the same page. That, combined with a strength training regimen sent by the team’s strength coach three times a week, has given them some sense of normalcy. According to Brandt, these have helped them get through the challenges of training from home.

“It is nice to be reassured that we are not going through this alone,” Brandt said.

That optimism was echoed by Bui, who said she even sees a silver lining in their current situation.

“Not being able to swim has given me other aspects to focus on that I wouldn't have prioritized,” Bui said.

That sense of optimism may go a long way in helping them get through the pandemic. Still, with the uncertainty surrounding how long they will be sidelined, Brandt said they know what’s at stake.

“Swimming is a sport that requires a lot of training,” Brandt said. “Even two or three weeks off could be a huge setback.”

The Owls’ first meet of next season won’t take place until October, but the longer it takes for pools to reopen means less time for swimmers across the country to train for the upcoming season.



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