Since late 2017, Kunkel Aquatic Center in the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center at Franklin & Marshall College has been home to the Lancaster Aquatic Club.
During the summer months, more than 90 swimmers from six years old to those entering their senior years of high school aim to improve and compete at various invitationals, with the older swimmers in high school looking to potentially get on the radar of college coaches, much akin to the AAU basketball or summer club lacrosse circuit.
But the F&M campus is closed this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, LAC had to find a different pool when its swimmers began practicing last week.
And although there are more than 20 public pools in Lancaster County, four are closed for the summer, three only opened in the last week and two are opening next week. The lack of pool availability is largely what led to the Lancaster County Summer Swim League cancelling its 2020 season.
It’s also what led to LAC practicing at Wilshire Pool in Berks County last week. Since Monday, practices have been split between Wilshire and Lititz Springs Pool.
“We’re going to keep our older kids up there in Berks County,” LAC 13th-year head coach and Ephrata alum Casey Coble said. “And starting this week we have our younger kids over in Lititz.”
The virus that causes COVID-19 cannot be spread through the water in pools, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, Coble said LAC had its swimmers sign a COVID-19 waiver release form, and there are several safety measures being followed at the direction of USA Swimming. Among them is keeping swimmers separated at least six feet while in the pool in order to prevent them from congregating when not swimming.
For Coble, that means putting four swimmers per lane in a six-lane pool, with one swimmer at each end and two swimmers in the middle of a lane, separated by six feet. Upon Coble blowing his whistle, swimmers swim in a clockwise direction.
“And we only have an hour with them,” Coble said. “So it’s hard to put them through too much. And going with 24 people in a six-lane pool, there’s not enough space to really get after it.”
Summer tournaments have also been cancelled this summer due to the pandemic.
That’s not much of a concern to the eight rising high school seniors on the LAC roster who have already committed to collegiate programs. But it presents a hurdle for the dozen or so rising juniors.
“Swimming is like football in that everything is moving earlier and earlier in the recruiting process,” Coble said. “Kids are committing in the middle of their junior years now, at least at the (NCAA) Division I level. ...and some of the sophomores, it’s tough on them because they’re unable to post a time to get a college coach’s attention. They’ll have to find other ways to do that.”
Coble, by the way, has to be cautious with his health being that he is a four-time Leukemia survivor.
Add everything up and this summer has presented several difficulties for LAC, despite the fact the club is only into its second week of practices.
“It’s been very challenging,” Coble said. “There’s a little bit of a rat race going on just to make sure you are the club getting times and facilities. You don’t want to be falling behind other clubs. But at the same time, we want to make sure we’re keeping everyone safe as well.”