The 2020 high school girls’ swimming season in Iowa already was going to be a challenge with COVID-19 concerns.
Then came the Aug. 10 derecho that caused damage over much of Linn County. Among the damaged buildings were the swimming pools at the three Cedar Rapids public high schools and, to a lesser extent, the Linn-Mar Aquatics Center.
With the season set to start at the end of August, adjustments had to be made. The pools at Washington and Jefferson weren’t available at all in August and the Kennedy pool still isn’t usable.
Linn-Mar’s facility suffered minor damage and became the temporary home for all four schools during August.
“We made quite a few adjustments when we were at Linn-Mar, going in the morning,” said Washington Coach Megan Lewis. “I’ve been beyond proud of our team. We are a small group, but we are making do and working hard together as well as trying to have some fun.”
The Warriors aren’t alone in trying to have some fun. In a year when you have to wonder what else could possibly go wrong, Jefferson and Kennedy experienced yet another oddity in a Sept. 1 dual meet held at Linn-Mar — a power outage right in the middle of a race which eventually led to the suspension of the meet.
“The meet at Linn-Mar was totally weird,” said J-Hawks Coach Jessica Hinke. “The power shutting off right in the middle of the 200 (-yard individual medley) was crazy, but the girls made the most of it.”
Jefferson’s pool is now available for practice and meets. Washington is only able to practice in its facility at this point with hopes of being able to host two late-season meets. Kennedy has become a road team in every sense of the word. The Cougars practice schedule ranges from early mornings to late evenings.
“We are at Jefferson for our varsity group in the evening,” said Kennedy Coach Chad Derlein. “We are at Washington for our junior varsity group in the evening and diving is at Washington in the morning.”
Ironically, the Cougars, ranked 10th in the latest power rankings, have had the most competition so far. After dropping a close dual to Cedar Falls to open the season on Aug. 25, Kennedy has a second-place finish at the Ram Relays in Dubuque, a team title at the Muscatine Invitational and impressive dual wins over Dubuque Wahlert, Burlington, Dubuque Hempstead and Pleasant Valley. None of the other Metro teams have been in more than three varsity competitions before Tuesday night.
“The girls have done an amazing job of adjusting to the schedules,” Derlein said. “Dynamics at the meets have been pretty good. The teams that have hosted meets have done an amazing job of keeping it as safe as possible, following the guidelines that have been set by the state.”
Hinke’s team has athletes from Cedar Rapids Prairie and Jefferson so she knows something about jumbled practice times and is happy to work with Kennedy on sharing a facility until repairs are complete at the Cougars’ pool.
“Chad told us right away not to worry about Kennedy and they would swim whenever we are done,” she said. “That was a huge relief since it’s already hard enough figuring out practice between Jefferson and Prairie.
“Kennedy got their team poster last week and I immediately hung it up on the pool deck at Jefferson, I remembered how hard it was to be away from our pool for two weeks, so if the Kennedy girls will feel a little more at home by seeing their poster on the wall, we might as well help them. We got our poster this weekend, so naturally it’s on the wall right next to Kennedy’s.”
Lewis said it is just a relief the swimmers are getting a chance to compete.
“2020 is a year like no other in many places,” she said. “We are fortunate to have a season at all and we are working to keep it going as long as possible.”