While the news was unfortunate, two Lancaster-Lebanon League swim teams avoided what could have been a downright awful situation this week when Franklin & Marshall College announced a “Very High Alert” regarding the COVID-19 pandemic on its campus.
Both McCaskey and Lancaster Catholic use F&M’s Kunkel Aquatic Center for home swim meets and the Crusaders hold practices there as well. So, when the college announced its alert, it understandably gave coaches flashbacks to 2020-21 when they had no place to call home.
At least, that is not the case. Both Catholic and McCaskey will be able to continue using the Diplomats’ facility for meets and practices. However, there will be no spectators allowed.
Red Tornado swim coach Suzie Holubek said that she found out Monday evening, and while it was disappointing news, she understood and remained appreciative to the college.
“We are so thankful they are letting us use it still,” she said. “Last year, we didn’t get to use it and had all away meets. It’s not the same. It’s just not home.”
Crusaders coach Matt DePietro agreed. He learned of the change on Wednesday when he and the team arrived for after-school practice.
“I walked in the building and spoke to the desk people about it,” he said. “Last year was a complete shutdown. Being able to use the facility is terrific. Otherwise, I could be really scrambling.”
Home meets will seem different, even for smaller teams such as these two squads.
“For sure, the atmosphere will be missed,” DePietro said. “There’s nothing quite like having your parents there to root for you. In every game, no matter what sport they are in.”
Of course, the alert brings more concerns for F&M than strictly aquatic and athletic activities.
The college will postpone students’ return from holiday break for two weeks. Classes will begin as scheduled on Jan. 18, but those will be held remotely until in-person class resumes Jan. 31.
On the surface, a complete closure would have affected Lancaster Catholic a bit more as at least McCaskey can practice at the pool inside it’s school. The Tornado practice at home most of the time, but they do hold a weekly workout at F&M.
Plus, the facility inside McCaskey, which according to Holubek dates back to 1938, is not suitable to hold competitions.
Holubek added that this week’s practice at F&M was very quiet and holding meets without fans will seem even more unusual.
Yet, the coach is thankful to still have home meets and is hopeful her school will have a livestream set up so parents can watch meets online.
Still, Holubek does have a way for parents to watch their kids live – by helping be a timer.
“If you want to see your kid compete, volunteer,” she said.
DiPietro readily agreed, adding: “We start out every season saying if you want the best seat in the house (volunteer).”
Huge meet on Tuesday
The depth of Hempfield’s boys and girls teams has caught the attention of coaches from around the league. The Black Knights showed that in the season-opener at Ephrata when the Mountaineers won the majority of races, but Hempfield was able to claim victory in the boys and girls meets.
That depth will be tested Tuesday afternoon when Hempfield is at Section One rival Manheim Township. Both enter the meet unbeaten in both boys and girls.
• Correspondent Steve Navaroli covers scholastic swimming for LNP. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveNavaroli.