Avery Voss doesn’t swim with the Scioto Country Club Sharks as much now as when he was younger, but the Upper Arlington standout still considers the summer season an integral part of his year-round training.
But after finishing as Division I state runner-up in the 100-yard freestyle and placing third in the 50 free for the Golden Bears at the Division I state meet in late February, the junior has been unable to swim at all since the middle of March.
Voss hoped the swimmers who, like him, honed their craft in summer leagues got that chance this year, but plans for several area leagues are canceled or remain uncertain because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“This is probably the longest I’ve gone without swimming, ever,” said Voss, who owns UA records in the 50 free and 100 free and helped the Sharks win their fourth consecutive Private Country Club Athletic League (PCCAL) championship last year while also competing for the Upper Arlington Swim Club. “For us (UA swimmers), our longest break is two weeks around spring break and then we get right back at it for the summer season. Now it’s getting to be two and three months.”
The PCCAL, Country Club Swim League, Greater Columbus Swim League (GCSL), Suburban East Swim League, Suburban Swim Club League (SSCL) and Tri-County Aquatic League (TCAL) all canceled their regular seasons and league meets in mid-May, citing uncertainty throughout the summer.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced May 14 that pools could reopen May 26 if they meet certain safety and social-distancing guidelines.
The North-East-West (NEW) League is holding out hope for its season. Its championship meet is scheduled for July 13 at Marysville Municipal Pool.
Patrick Johnston, who runs the Dublin Dolphins program, said at least some of the NEW League’s fate depends on individual municipalities’ decisions on opening their pools.
“If the pools can open, then there’s a chance,” Johnston said. “If we can have some meets that will be good for everybody.”
The PCCAL’s championship meet was scheduled for July 8 at Ohio State.
“(Clubs) did have some conversations about doing some meets virtually where one team swims at their pool and the other swims at theirs and we just combine the results, or something to be able to get in any practices and meets … but there won’t be anything in terms of championships, league records, anything like that,” PCCAL meet manager Caitlain Spangler said. “There’s so much uncertainty and Ohio State wasn’t even sure their facilities would be available. It’s not easy, but a lot went into it.”
Ohio State’s pool is scheduled to reopen June 30.
Hilliard and Grandview Heights’ announcements April 27 and May 2, respectively, that their pools would be closed this summer led to two of the SSCL’s three teams — the Grandview Gators and Hilliard Marlins — canceling their seasons, according to commissioner Kim Kessler.
The third team, Swim and Racquet, was unsure whether it would have any competition, Kessler said.
GCSL commissioner Kevin Kissling said the board voted 8-0 to suspend the season during a virtual meeting May 13. Its championship meet was scheduled for July 13 at Highlands Park Aquatic Center in Westerville.
Kissling also was preparing for his fourth season as coach of the Worthington Waves, but that program had decided before the vote that it wasn’t going to compete this summer.
“Everyone was realistic that it might not work this year,” Kissling said. “Every club feels like for the kids that come and choose to spend an hour or so each morning with us, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great learning opportunity. For a lot of kids, it’s their first introduction to competitive swimming. For other kids, it’s just what they do with their friends."
The Licking County-based TCAL, which includes the Bexley Marlins, Canal Winchester Dolphins, Chevington Woods Kingfish, Groveport Fighting Fish and Pickerington Tiger Sharks, has more than 1,500 swimmers on 13 teams and holds a two-day championship meet in late July at Denison.
“Many teams need at least two to three weeks to prepare, so we waited until the last possible moment,” TCAL president Staci Stought told The (Newark) Advocate. “Kids tend to swim year-round and are swimming with kids from different school systems, and it’s wonderful, but leagues such as the TCAL, you are swimming with your neighbors and your schoolmates. There is something extra special and that makes it very sad for us.”