For a moment at Cheshire Swim and Dive’s meet on Saturday, things felt normal.
“When it’s time to swim fast, they swim fast,” said Cheshire swim coach Dave Modzelewski. “When they get excited, they get really excited.”
It was senior night. They rolled out the red carpet at the Cheshire community pool. Parents and athletes posed for photos.
“They walk through the balloons with their masks on, met their families with their masks on, and then we gave them a brief moment of normalcy,” said Modzelewski.
And then they put their masks back on. It’s a brief moment, but they’ll take it because swim meets in 2020 are anything but normal.
“It’s definitely very weird,” said one of the team’s captains, Mary Barto.
They’re swimming in a meet without their opponent and it’s a virtual competition.
“It's all about the clock, we have to keep each other motivated,” said Sophie Murphy, another captain. “Our coaches have to keep the energy up.”
Each team swims at their home pools without knowing how their opponents are doing and they won’t get their results until the following day.
“It’s definitely challenging to be like, 'I don't even know if I won that event and I just finished,'” said Murphy.
For the coaches, the challenge comes in not being able to change their strategy as the events unfold.
“Make a line-up that you're confident in so that if they do what they need to do then, we'll be ok,” said Modzelewski.
Although, sometimes just getting in the pool is a feat in itself. On deck, there’s a system of sanitizing stopwatches, bags of gloves and masks to keep the Rams swimming.
“You can't even give someone a high five after they swam,” said Natalie Dematteo, a diver and captain.
But for the Rams, a program with 43 state titles, they'll leave their mark on 2020, even if it’s anything but normal.
“I mean this will definitely be a year to remember,” said Barto.