Swim and dive, all NMU athletes dealing with COVID-19 protocols


SWIMMING PAST THE PROTOCOLS—Izzy McCabe poses during the Wildcats’ swim and dive home meet. The swim and dive team, and all athletics at NMU, are dealing with the challenge of the COVID-19 protocols. Dallas Wiertella/NW

Dallas Wiertella, Staff Writer

The start of 2022 has already left many students in a sense of deja-vu as new policies have left a feeling of last year. For NMU athletics, the restraints are pulled a little tighter with practice and competition policies on top of student policy. 

The first week for many athletic programs screeched to a halt, facing cancellations of practices and games. The NMU Swim and Dive Team started with a whole week of canceled practice and a canceled meet against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Co-captain Grant Combs is reminded of last year’s shutdowns.

“(Games being canceled) had happened the year before a lot, we were pretty lucky to make it this far without anything being shut down,” Combs said. “We didn’t know initially how long we were going to be shut down but I am just happy to swim again.” 

Although things have since steadied out for all members of NMU, there are still noticeable changes implemented. Masks have been reinstated despite vaccination in order to protect from further cancellation both in their weight room and on the pool deck. On top of that, there will be no spectators at the GLIAC Championships on February 4-7.

“It’s a little frustrating to hear,” Combs said. “From what we heard everything will still proceed as normal, just minus the spectators.”

Adding to the restrictions is the mass screening project. Athletes are in one of three separate groups with students and staff. Being separated from the normal student biases leaves athletic programs more likely to be hit with large-scale COVID reports and face cancellation both of competitions and the program as a whole.

“I’m glad not many of us have been selected,” junior Lauren Melendez-Rivero of the swim and dive team said. “I don’t think it affected us much last semester but it definitely has in the past.” 

The 2020-2021 season is still a reminder of what could happen to teams at any moment. Facing mass cancellation across athletic programs is still a real fear for some athletes. The new changes bring a sense of security and motivation to stay safe to avoid cancellation but worry still begins to set in for the Wildcats as they hope to make it through their season without any problems.

“It’s definitely worrying just with how close the conference is,” Melendez-Rivero said. “We are definitely more conscious this year compared to last winter with the protocols. I think a lot of students became lax with covid and the protocols with the cloth masks and the under the nose problem. Now we have KN95 and even little hooks to hang our masks on to keep track of them on the pool deck.”

The team started facing cancellations after the 2021 GLIAC Championship, so with the 2022 conference meet being right around the corner, it seems to be that time of year for things to go wrong. With the first week and meet of 2022 being canceled it seems all but too close to a repeat of last year for the athletes.

“If the canceled meet had been earlier in the season it would have scared us but we would have been like, alright, let’s be more careful. Focusing on what we can do to minimize the spread and be better as a team,” Melendez-Rivero said. “But since it was so close to the conference it did definitely shake us up a bit. Every single day of training is important and every single day we get up to race is a gift so it was definitely a bit unnerving to have that meet canceled.”

For students of NMU, the new system in place does have similar motivation when compared to last year’s protocols. When thinking of athletes, it’s easy to forget that they are also everyday students. The athletes of NMU face the same new protocols as the rest of the student population just with extra restrictions at practice. 

“I feel very strongly about being masked and being vaccinated, I think it’s important that we do our best to stay safe,” Melendez-Rivero said. “It’s nice knowing that now others will be wearing their masks as they should be and trying to get vaccinated. Being back in person is also really nice along with the option to go online if needed. I don’t think I have been negatively impacted, but I think it’s due to being so used to this pandemic.”