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In The Water

Jets Prepared For Swim Season

When it comes to playing sports in the age of COVID-19, swimming would seem to be a decent candidate for safe competition when compared to contact events.

That may be true, but that does not mean that this year’s Jamestown YMCA Jets season will look anything like previous years.

Following New York state guidance and helped by USA swimming resources, coach Jason Chinni and his staff have had to make unprecedented changes just like every other sports team.

The Jets have held their evaluation weeks Monday-Friday throughout September, and are looking forward to the coming season.

“We reopened the pool on June 22,” Chinni said. “During the summer we ran a five-week thing for our last year’s Jets. It was kind of a conditioning event but we were also trying to learn how we had to handle the pool deck, because our kids can’t use the locker rooms. They have to stay 6 feet apart. You aren’t sharing equipment. It is a lot trickier. So we spent parts of the summer trying to re-learn how to handle the pool. Last week and this week we have been doing groups of up to eight kids at a time.”

Normally the Jets are able to use the pools of Southwestern and Jamestown high schools, but COVID-19 has limited the team to its home base at the YMCA.

“We’ve had to reduce our teams down to a four-lane pool, limited number of kids per lane,” Chinni said. “So we are going to have I think six different practice groups based on abilities and speeds. That is kind of where we are at about now. My current list of kids who have done evaluation weeks is at about 43. I’ve got a couple of kids I know who are coming back to me who are swimming for their high schools already. So we are not going to evaluate them.”

Chinni said that in a normal year the Jets would not place a limit on numbers early on in the season, often involving as many as 100 swimmers from ages 5-18.

With all of the new pandemic precautions in place, things have had to shrink down a bit.

“I have been reduced to just using the Y’s pool we’ve been swimming in the Y after hours,” Cheney said. “We’ve gotten to the point where our building is closed up as a Y and our kids are still in the water finishing up their practices so we can serve the maximum number of kids possible.”

Interest in the program has remained high despite COVID-19, with Cheney adding “I think the parents are very, very happy. It has given the kids something to do. Everyone has embraced what we have to do in order to swim.”

One benefit of sports that are raced against the clock is that virtual meets and races are still on the table.

Cheney said that large national swim meets have been run digitally in the past, allowing swimmers from all across the county to submit their times against one another.

Right now, the virtual model looks like the most likely candidate for Jets meets to start the year.

“For our league meets where we are head-to-head against another team, our current plan in our league is to start with virtual,” Cheney said. “So I will swim my team, their events in my pool. My opposing teams will swim their events in their pool. We’ll merge the results and that is how we will be able to rank and place the kids.”

Cheney said that some teams the Jets compete against are currently running in-person meets, albeit with added precautions.

“It is a wild and crazy way to do it, where the kids come in, they swim, and once those kids leave the next set of kids come in to the pool. It is much more of a process than it ever was before,” he said.

Whatever the 2020 season ends up looking like, local swimmers and coaches are pleased that some options are available.

“We know it is not going to be a normal year. We know things aren’t going to be the way they used to be for a while,” Cheney said. “However, we are in the water, we are swimming. We are going to get to compete. The kids are going to get in shape, they are going to get better.”

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