FLORENCE — Having a swim season last year amid pandemic restrictions was no simple thing.
Only 10 swimmers could practice in the pool at a time, while the other half of the team ran laps and did conditioning workouts. Every hour, they’d switch. Competition was similarly cautious.
“We had virtual meets last year, where only my team could be here and we would time them and send the times to the other coaches,” Florence coach Aubrey Smith said.
With a return to more normal-looking meets, Smith is predicting a successful season.
“Honestly I feel like last year was a hot mess with all the COVID restrictions. I feel that our team is definitely going to exceed what we did last year.” She’s looking for the Gophers to be especially strong in the breaststroke as well as the 50 and 100 freestyle.
After graduating several seniors in the last two years, the team is young. “We have a lot of freshmen, they’re young, but they’ve been working hard since May and June and I think it showed tonight. Especially with my girls, they came out strong.” Florence finished a Sept. 2 meet with 84 points, well ahead of Combs (43) and Coolidge (17).
The Gophers have the advantage of three captains, Lillie Hanson, Tanner Elliot and Grace Moke. “They’re amazing, they get these kids pumped up, they’re great teachers. Lillie and Tanner, fingers crossed, they should make it to state this year.”
Team practices these days are mainly about the fine details. “We only have one new swimmer, the rest are veterans who’ve been swimming their entire lives. At this point we’re just trying to perfect technique to get those seconds off.”
The team will swim a schedule similar to recent years, except for the fact there’s an extra state qualifier event this year, Smith said. “Some of the kids who started last year, it will be new because we were so restricted on what we could do with swim last season. But my juniors, they’re used to this busy schedule.”