High School Swimming Finals, Records Have Been Altered by COVID-19

Elwanda Tulloch

CALIFORNIA SEASON ERASED There were plenty of elite swimmers in California ready to make their mark on their final high school season. Among them: Luca Urlando of C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento had a spectacular high school season last year as a junior, breaking Dressel’s national public school record […]

CALIFORNIA SEASON ERASED

There were plenty of elite swimmers in California ready to make their mark on their final high school season. Among them:

  • Luca Urlando of C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento had a spectacular high school season last year as a junior, breaking Dressel’s national public school record in the 100 yard butterfly from 2013 by 1-hundredth of a second with a 45.88. That summer, he proceeded to win five gold medals at the World Junior Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
  • Claire Tuggle also has been one of the top teen phenoms in the sport, and she is just a sophomore. As a freshman in 2019, she swam the second fastest time nationally in the 500 free (4:41.60).Who knows what they—and hundreds of other swimmers in California—could have done if they just had a season?

MISSED OPPORTUNITY IN MICHIGAN

And it wasn’t just the superstars who were affected. The coronavirus also affected countless teams that were just looking for an opportunity to see how they measured up with their competition.

The West Ottawa boys’ high school swim team from Holland, Mich. had won the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state title in 2019, edging team runner-up Detroit Catholic Central on the meet’s final relay by 6-hundredths of a second to ensure the team victory.

After losing all but two of its point scorers from a year ago, 2020 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. However, this year’s psych sheet showed West Ottawa as the top-seeded team.

Would they have been able to repeat as team champions? That question would remain unanswered.

“It was very difficult to see our kids not have an opportunity to defend our state title,” said West Ottawa coach Steve Bowyer. “After graduating three division 1 swimmers, we had a new group of seniors hoping to make their mark for our program. It was going to be a very competitive meet with Detroit Catholic Central, Ann Arbor Pioneer and Hudsonville all bringing strong teams into the meet. We were looking forward to some great races.

The hardest thing for our kids is not having closure to the season and always wondering what could have been.”

Graduated were last year’s swimmer of the meet Derek Maas (Alabama), Khadin Soto (Purdue), Sam Smith (Oakland) and Christian Rottier (Saginaw Valley). Jamahl Hogan was the only swimmer returning who made the top eight finals—and he finished eighth in the 200 IM.

“With that group we lost last year, you come into the next season wondering what your identity will be. Jamahl had really embraced that leadership role from the beginning of the season,” Bowyer said. “As a coach, after you win a state championship and lose three Division 1 athletes, you almost reset your expectations. But for Jamahl and our senior group, they were determined not to let that happen—they had the same mindset as we did last year.

“It really showed with the improvement they had made, and that had a lot to do with his leadership and focus, wanting to make their mark just like the seniors did last year.”

Everything was prepared for them to repeat with a completely different group of scorers—something extremely rare at a state meet, especially at the Division 1 level.

But Michigan’s high school swimming season was wiped out just days before.

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