Girls Swim Adjusts to Return of Travel Tournaments

Senior+Taylor+Wilkerson+swims+in+an+August+swim+meet

Sam Tichenor

Senior Taylor Wilkerson swims in an August swim meet

Caspar Dowdy, Views Editor

It isn’t new for everyone. Years of racing with club teams outside of school have made long bus rides the norm for many of those on EHS Girls Swim. But for the entire group of swimmers, last year’s atypical season makes drives like this an adjustment.

A mix of COVID precautions and travel restrictions kept many EHS teams from competing against their usual opponents, especially the girls swim team, who were resigned to going up against only O’Fallon for most of the season.

Now in a year with lightened restrictions, players have been making up for lost competitions by traveling to other schools for meets more often. The unfamiliar territory has been an opportunity for the swimmers to test themselves, but it comes with a share of uncertainty.

“Up until this year, I never really realized how much a difference there is when it comes to swimming in a different pool,” senior Chloe Harrison said. “I think the girls and I initially struggled with this but we eventually got used to it.”

For those not used to swimming on a high school team, this year’s limited home meets have proved an extra change to get used to. But the long commutes have been a positive addition to some swimmer’s schedules.  

“I’m used to just going to meets by myself but traveling with my team is a good team bonding experience,” freshman Karis Chen said. “I think it definitely has helped my transition into high school sports.”

New pools and long drives may lead to some discomforts, but facing more challenging opponents allows time to prepare this year’s team for future competitions.

“The teams further away are more competitive, and are teams that we will be facing at sectionals, so it’s good to practice swimming against them,” senior Henley Mason said.

With a large portion of last season’s swimmers having graduated, leaving the team with no divers, earning points has been a challenge at times. While Mason admits that the team hasn’t “won every meet that we have swam in,” a loss in team members has benefitted the group in some ways.

“I think that having such a small team this year has allowed us to have a closer bond,” Harrison said. “We have all gotten so close this year and I really think that has helped with the enthusiasm and team spirit…”

A closer team means seniors like Mason and Harrison know firsthand who will lead the team after they’ve graduated, which some see as an opportunity to be a role model for the next class of athletes.

“I think that us older girls have set a standard for the younger girls. Speaking for myself, I have really tried to teach them how important team spirit is,” Harrison said.

Hearing these lessons from upperclassmen has given freshmen like Chen the ability to enter high school athletics with an example to learn from.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot from them,” Chen said. “I think they will allow me to grow and improve.”

The extra hours on the road may be a bigger time commitment, but building a stronger group dynamic has become a priority for many on these long bus rides.

“Sometimes it has been hard to balance swim and school,” Mason said, “But it is completely worth it to be able to swim against better teams and spend more time with these girls.”