Ketchikan High School’s swim and dive season wasn’t supposed to end this way.
Sure, the shortened season had been in a stop-and-go sequence amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the squad’s final race was around the corner, as Kayhi was set to host the Region V meet at the Gateway Aquatic Center in a few weeks.
The Alaska School Activities Association had already canceled state championship competitions this fall. But regionals still were lined up to happen on Nov. 20-21, and Ketchikan’s squad also was ready to participate in its third virtual meet this season, this weekend at the aquatic center.
But Wednesday, the season stopped abruptly.
Local developments regarding COVID-19 bumped the Ketchikan Gateway Borough risk level to “high,” forcing the Gateway Recreation Center to limit activities inside the building for the next two weeks, meaning the aquatic center wouldn’t be allowed to host any swim meets the rest of this season — and Wednesday was the team’s last practice.
“It’s depressing for the high school kids because they worked so hard, and we basically had three weeks left in the season,” Ketchikan head coach Gary Crowe said. “... So the seniors didn’t get their senior day. In fact, we didn’t even take a team picture. We were going to (do that) on Saturday ... before the meet on Saturday.”
The squad did take a few photos during its last practice. The seniors took a group picture because it was their last time swimming together. But it wasn’t the same as each of them having their own individual moment.
“We were going to have senior day during regionals to honor all the seniors from the schools,” Crowe said. “... We’ll probably have a banquet some time.”
Since it was the team’s final practice, Crowe and his coaching staff, including Rocky Elerding, Matt Hagan and Eryn Brooks, let the last day be a “fun” day.
They scratched the original plan for practice, which was gearing up for this weekend’s meet, and instead let loose for a little bit.
“We played around today,” Crowe said. “... (The rec center employees) came and told us — we were having our team meeting about getting ready, and they told us about (the updated risk level). ... It was like, ‘OK. No practice; we’ll play games all day.’”
The fun day was necessary. The season has been different than any other before, amid the virus. Traveling to different towns for each competition never happened. Everyone participated virtually.
“The year was really tough,” Crowe said. “That was probably the hardest season I’ve ever coached. The virtual meets were good to have, but you needed to have that head-to-head competition with other competitors in there swimming. And we didn’t have that.”
Killer Whales swim club
The Ketchikan Killer Whales swim club also was supposed to participate in a time trial on Saturday at the aquatic center. That has been canceled, as well.
The swim club does have a pair of virtual meets tentatively scheduled in early December, but those might change depending on coronavirus levels.
According to ASAA, Nov. 21 is the final date to compete in fall athletics this season. The swim and dive team was scheduled to complete its regional meet on that same day, until the latest spike in coronavirus cases.
After Nov. 21, ASAA has nothing scheduled until January, meaning wrestling, and boys and girls basketball might start then — at the earliest.
But even that set-up is in question.
“You look at the (those) three winter sports ... and try to figure out how you layer them without hurting some of the smaller schools,” Ketchikan Activities Director Cole Maxwell said. ”If they overlap too much, one program or the other — in some of those 1A or 2A schools — they either all choose to wrestle or all choose to play basketball. So it would be unfortunate for that to happen.”
There is an ASAA meeting on Nov. 9, and according to Maxwell, the scheduling of wrestling and basketball seasons is on the agenda.