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SWIMMING ON – Mia Barrault competes at the 2019 WCSG in Swift Current, Sask. The Glacier Bears swim team began training on Sept. 8 and keep practicing as if there will be competitive meets in the near future. Photo by TEAM YUKON/SARAH LEWIS

Glacier Bears keep eyes set on goals

The Whitehorse Glacier Bears had their swim season cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

By John Tonin on October 16, 2020

The Whitehorse Glacier Bears had their swim season cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

However, that hasn’t stopped the swimmers from pursuing their short and long-term goals, said head coach Carmen Escobar.

“The swimmers have been active all summer doing dryland training and other things outside the pool,” said Escobar.

“When the pool opened July 1, a month later in August they were able to rent a lane for one hour as a member of the CGC so they could swim on their own.”

The club officially began training again on Sept. 8. Escobar said it was hectic to get things going because of the restrictions but the swimmers and coaches are just happy to be back in the water.

“It was absolutely crazy, a gong show, getting a schedule together with COVID restrictions,” said Escobar. “But, we managed to get the entire club started except for our beginner Teddy’s. The goal was to have everyone in the pool doing activity. They need to be active.

“Groups are smaller, our club capacity is below what we normally hold. We also have double lanes, so we are swimming more distanced away from each other.”

Escobar said when they are in the water the risk isn’t great but they are careful when the athletes are on the deck receiving instruction.

The older athletes’ schedule changed from a full week of training to four days. The caveat is they are practicing for three hours at a time.

“It is a lot of time in the pool, holy smokes,” said Escobar. “It is new. I was a bit doubtful about whether they would be able to put up with this. But, the swimmers are adapting incredibly well. I am pleasantly surprised they are holding down the double the distance, double the time.”

Escobar said for the swimmers who have aspirations of swimming collegiately, this training setup will only be a benefit to them.

“We are doing 9-10 kilometres a session,” she said. “When they go to university and they swim their sessions it will be easy or when they go back into a two-hour session it will be a piece of cake.”

Before training resumed after the long break, Escobar said she was concerned some of the athletes would drop the sport in lieu of something else.

“It was long enough for them to think ‘oh my god, back in the pool,’” said Escobar. “It was enough time to think social life is more fun or other sports are less demanding. I was confident we would get most back but I knew that was a chance.

“But they are doing it happily. I love it. It gets really tough when you hit the second hour, that’s the hardest. It is happening and we are accomplishing things and pushing each other. We are trying to swim fast and fast is fun. It is powerful.”

COVID has shuttered most of the meets the Glacier Bears would attend, but there is still an outside possibility provincials could be held. That is one of three ways Escobar is trying to keep the athletes motivated.

“I spoke to a Swim Canada person about the reality of holding meets come January,” said Escobar. “The answer to that is we still don’t know. So we are talking eight months with no formal competitions. That is devastating. How do I keep them going three hours hard if we don’t have anything to look forward to? It wasn’t a firm no.

“Technically, as of now, provincials in March in B.C. are planned with a new format for the meet that would allow less competitors at a time. They divided provincials into four divisions. All those clubs that belong to those divisions will compete. Instead of a 1,000 swimmer meet it would be a 300 swimmer meet.

“I am using that. It is a possibility, we cannot assume it is going to happen, we can’t assume it isn’t going to happen. We have to work with the possibility.”

Swim Canada could potentially be doing time trials and Escobar said she has been using that as “a little carrot to help them through.” As well, the club is holding its own time trials to give the swimmers a taste of a meet’s atmosphere.

“We are also doing in-house time trials,” said Escobar. “We haven’t competed since March so we are going to go for it. I’m going to have the swimmers suit up, they will time each other but it will be a mock scenario so swimmers get into the mindset of racing.

“It gives you the opportunity to dive from blocks, have their own lane. In this, everyone lane group is in, you have your block, a referee, a starter. We have to limit people on the deck so we are having the essential elements that make it feel like a swim meet.

“The swimmers will feel I have to go, I have to race. The more you swim, the more you race you get into better practices.”

The time trials will be held this Saturday and Nov. 7. Escobar said it is also important for her to see the athletes compete so she can adjust the program.

“I cannot go further into the new planning I’m doing without seeing where they are at. We are doing one mid-distance, one IM (individual medley), and one sprint to see speed, endurance, and development of the four strokes.

“I will also see if the dryland training they are doing is working. I want to see that. Then we can change this as needed.”

Although it was a long layoff for the swimmers, Escobar said everyone is getting stronger, smarter, and better as training resumes.

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