Senior swimmers are excited for their final year


Kaurina Sidhu

On September 10 at East Kentwood High School, I was behind the block watching the first heat finish, heart racing, shaking out the nerves, getting ready for the race, hardly believing we had made it to this moment.

   Back in June, there was talk that Governor Gretchen Whitmer was going to open indoor pools. But no. Then again a few weeks later. No.  The trend kept continuing, but she never got around to opening them in the summer.

   For swimmers and coaches, this summer and fall has been an emotional rollercoaster of uncertainty. As the high school season was just around the corner, many started to question if there was going to be a girls’ swim season at all. 

   The team started the first week of practice outside at West Ottawa High School running, doing core, and basic conditioning. The following week the girls moved to Bouws pool on the south side of Holland. They swam outside from 12:30-2:30 for five days that week. 

   “I was excited. It’s been a long few months of pools being closed and being in quarantine. Obviously, when we were allowed to start practicing there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether we were having a season or not. It was nice to get going again,” Coach Steve Bowyer said.

   Bowyer, just like many other coaches, thought pools would be open on July 5th at the latest. He had prepared for the swim clubs to start practicing over the summer, but never got the chance to get in the pool. When it was time for the high school season, the team thought that meant the pool would open.

   That same week, Whitmer was supposed to announce whether she was opening indoor pools; the girls were told Whitmer was holding a press conference at the same time their practice was. The whole practice the seniors were stressing, as well as the coaches. All three coaches had their phones out, each watching the press conference, while the girls were in the pool. The girls kept swimming, not knowing if it would be their last practice.

   We all kept looking over at the coaches to see their facial expressions, trying to determine if Whitmer had said anything. By the end of Whitmer’s conference she hadn’t said anything about pools, so that meant she wasn’t opening them. At the end of practice, Bowyer got an email from MHSAA saying they were inconclusive about the fall season and would have more information the following day. 

   “I was looking for an answer while we were practicing, but she didn’t open them. It became harder and harder to find motivation to practice and be there, especially with the early mornings we had,” Sr Haley Menghini said. Menghini had been looking forward to this season for a while. She had started talking with the team back in June to make sure after everything, just to remember to have fun. 

   The next week West Ottawa started school. There were seven teams practicing at Bouws’ and the only time coach Steve Bowyer could get for the team was 5:30-7 in the morning.

   The uncertainty was hard on everyone. There was a rollercoaster of emotions every time Whitmer wouldn’t mention indoor pools.

   “The atmosphere of the team always changes somewhat from year to year. I think this year it seems like people aren’t taking races for granted as much because you never know whether this race will be your last,” Sr. Genevieve Gruenler stated. The team was ready to race because this season is not like any other. The first three weeks there was no definite answer of a season, and the girls didn’t know what they were working toward.

   Indoor pools were finally allowed to open on September 9. First day in the pool. The first time getting in West Ottawa’s pool in at least six months. The pool was untouched.

   “It was a little scary to get in the pool at first because I didn’t know how long it was going to take to get back into shape. But it was good to know that every swimmer is in the same position so it is not just me or my team trying to get in shape,” Sr. Lilly Brandt said. 

   After the second day the pools opened, the team had a meet against East Kentwood. “I couldn’t wrap my head around that they were actually opening after everything that had happened. We have a meet the second day they are open. I was kind of overwhelmed but at the same time excited, ready to get in and swim fast,” Sr. Allie Langdon said.

   Langdon is a co-captain along with Brandt, and she was ready for the season to start. Since Langdon wanted all the girls to keep a positive mindset, she organized some team bondings. She wanted everyone on the team to know it was okay if the season was canceled or rescheduled as long as they made the best out of what they got. 

   The entire process has been a rollercoaster, and we just can’t be sure we are pulling into the end of the ride. There might be more ups and downs ahead. Langdon is setting a great tone, though. Enjoy it while it lasts.