By Amanda Peh ’22 News Reporter
Many of Mercersburg Academy’s seniors are committed to athletics, some so committed that they plan to play at the collegiate level. However, because of the pandemic, many athletes may find that their skills level is not at peak due to the lack of competitions last Spring and this Fall season. Their training, as well as their abilities, may also have been hindered by the situation. In the case of swimming, consistently rigorous year-long practice is truly key to success.
The college recruitment process has been heavily altered in the new world of coronavirus. Atypically, potential recruits were not able to visit their campuses of interest to spend time with prospective teams and coaches. This past summer, many collegiate coaches reached out to Mercersburg athletes through email and Zoom, extremely helpful resources when recruits were trying to form connections with their schools of interest. The ball was in Mercersburg’s court as well; the Blue Storm coaching staff has helped their athletes communicate. Head swim coach, Glenn Neufeld, keeps his athletes on track by keeping them cognizant of the recruiting timelines. This year, Neufeld has shared personal insights about college coaches and programs to ease the lost experience of viewing them in person.
Kiersten Donnelly’s ‘21 college recruitment process exemplified the uniqueness of the situation created by the pandemic. She recently committed to the University of New Hampshire, but was unable to go on any official visits to see the school or the swimming program before making this decision. Typically, swimmers will go on several visits before settling on a school. Donnelly said, “I have never met the coach in person.” She had to rely on virtual interaction to see if the coach and the school were the right fit for her. Ultimately, she was able to arrive at the right decision.
Neufeld recognized the struggles that his swimmers were facing. Neufeld reiterated Donnelly’s statement: “One of the hardest parts of the COVID restrictions in the swimming recruitment process is not being able to meet coaches.” The NCAA did not allow any coaches to recruit in-person. From the perspective of both a swim coach and a college counselor, he said, “I tried to do what I could to help the swimmers. I tried to get them as much information as possible, often talking to coaches for them.”
Aside from college recruitment, many swimmers were faced with the challenge of being forced to take several months off from practice. Andy Armbruster ‘21 explained, “For swimmers, each missed day of swim takes about 1-2 practices to make up for that single missed day.” After two months of lost practice, Armbruster had to dedicate his whole summer to getting back into shape. He said, “Overcoming this hurdle was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced.”
Considering all the lost water time over the summer, Andrew Yuen ‘21, says, ” Day-to-day practices are just as important now as ever.” The lack of competition calls for an opportunity to adjust and adapt to the schedule. Yuen says “This time is perfect to get better for the long run, whether focusing on technique or improving the aerobic base.”
Despite the major impact on seniors athletes, they are feeling optimistic and excited about the new year. They will look for the positive aspects of this unprecedented year and make the most of their last chance to swim for the Blue Storm.