Upper Valley swim teams go with the flow of COVID-19 guidelines

  • Hanover's Benton Cesanek competes in a field of only himself for the boys 100 yard butterfly during a swim meet in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Before the start of his swim meet, Lebanon swimmer Zethan Moss catches a sandwich tossed from his mother in the balcony in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2020 10:05:31 PM
Modified: 12/2/2020 10:05:22 PM

The Carter Community Building Association’s Dwinell Pool will be the hub of Upper Valley swimming this year.

The aquatic venue — located at CCBA’s Witherell Recreation Center in downtown Lebanon — will host the Hanover and Lebanon high school swim teams, along with New Hampshire residents of the Upper Valley Aquatic Center’s club team until they’re allowed to cross the Vermont state line and return to the White River Junction-based facility.

For Kerry Artman, the CCBA’s executive director, it’s made for a large coordinating effort the past couple of weeks.

“Just to give the kids any chance of having this form of healthy exercise and stay connected on a team is so important,” Artman said Wednesday morning over the phone. “(This year) has really taught us that we can solve these problems if we’re open to it, maybe making it look different than it did before. Just trying to still come out with a positive outcome, and we’re game for trying to make it happen.”

The CCBA has put COVID-19 specific protocols in place, aligning with the state of New Hampshire’s guidelines released this summer. Athletes must be screened and have their temperature checked upon arrival at the facility, and masks are worn until they enter the water. Face coverings also are placed in plastic bags at the end of lanes so they can be put on immediately after swimmers exit the pool.

Hanover and Lebanon also have instituted some of their own rules. The Raiders usually practice at the CCBA, but they aren’t using the facility’s equipment or locker rooms. Plus, first-year coach McKeanna Teevens is assigning swimmers a lap partner to minimize their contact with other members of the team.

Marauders coach Sean Uiterwyk, also in his first season, has had to institute more stringent directives. For the first time in recent memory, Hanover will have to cut swimmers from its team because of size limits. A usual team consists of 35-40 athletes, but Uiterwyk will cap it at 24.

Hanover’s also going to be practicing on different days because only 12 swimmers will be allowed in the pool simultaneously, with two athletes per lane in hopes of limiting possible exposure.

“Our priority is the safety of the kids, but also the safety of the community,” said Uiterwyk, who has been an assistant with the program the past four years. “We’ve been really clear that is the No. 1 priority. We’d love to be able to have fun and get them better at swimming, but the safety is the biggest issue.”

The NHIAA has permitted swimming this winter, but neither Hanover nor Lebanon has a meet schedule yet; both are uncertain when or if one will come. Furthermore, the NHIAA’s swim committee hasn’t set a date for the state meet.

The difficulty with the state meet will be securing a facility, as all college venues in the state are off the table because visitors are not allowed on campuses. The University of New Hampshire has traditionally served as host.

Shannon Quinn, the NHIAA’s media coordinator, said in a Wednesday email: “We (NHIAA) are operating as if everything is on as scheduled as of right now.”

Organizers are considering virtual meets, though. Teams would record times at their own respective sites and compare them with others. The problem with that scenario, however, is that not all pools are the same size.

Artman said the CCBA is capable of recording times during practice, but she hasn’t been informed of any meets planned at her pool as of now.

“We have a consistent practice schedule, but a meet schedule hasn’t been released yet,” Teevens added in a Tuesday phone interview. “I think when we do have meets, the number of teams will be limited because only so many were able to use a facility, so they wouldn’t be able to swim.”

The Hanover and UVAC teams are using the CCBA facilities after hours, not conflicting with any of the pool’s pre-scheduled aquatic lessons. The Marauders’ diving team is using the CCBA’s board because it doesn’t have access to Dartmouth College’s Karl Michael Pool.

Joe Major, the UVAC’s executive director, is hopeful Vermont residents of his club team will eventually be able to practice. The state of Vermont has paused high school and recreational sports indefinitely, which has shut down most of the center’s operations.

“I am all for the abundance of caution in whatever we do,” he said. “I’d rather we be overcautious than not take those things seriously. We can try to do as much as we can to eliminate the virus, but it only takes one person from the outside to come in. Given all that, we will continue to work with the state to do the right thing.”

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.

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