With the logistics to pull off the 2020 Northern Virginia Swimming League season proving too numerous and complicated in a COVID-19 world, officials have pulled the plug on summer competition.
“Some wanted us to delay the decision,” said Linda Klopfenstein, a longtime league administrator and currently coordinator of the league’s Division 1, but “there were too many ifs, ands and buts” to see a way forward.
“There were a lot of factors and issues: insurance, financial, hiring employees, the social-distancing situation,” Klopfenstein told the Sun Gazette. “So we went ahead and made the decision now.”
“We feel profound sadness knowing the disappointment this will cause, but the decision was made to prioritize the safety of our participants, supporters and communities,” the NVSL executive board said in a statement posted on the league Website.
But that might not be the end of the story for some of the 102 teams that make up the 64-year-old league.
If pools are allowed to open this summer, unofficial competitions could take place, including the perennial showdown between Division 1 powerhouses Chesterbrook of McLean and Overlee of Arlington.
“Depending on comfortability of the situation, that has already been talked about and could be set up,” said Overlee coach Andrew Koons.
Tuckahoe, of McLean, also swims in Division 1 and has finished third for four straight years. First-year coach Torey Ortmayer said there could be ways to give swimmers an opportunity to race.
“We’ll have to wait to see what official guidelines would be,” Ortmayer said. “We could hold tri-meets, or meets with recorded times to compare with other teams. We would still want to give swimmers the opportunity to do something.”
“We thought we could have a good season and be competitive with Overlee and Chesterbrook,” Ortmayer said. “This is definitely not the way I wanted to have my first season. But we have been preaching ‘perspective’ to our swimmers that, sometimes, things are bigger than sports.”
Chesterbrook coach Katherine Stuver said her team was poised to win a fifth straight championship, with many top seniors and strong swimmers in other age groups.
“After we learned there would not be a season, we switched gears to get creative and look at ways and activities to have any type or any kind of season, even if it was a modified practice or some kind of clinic,” Stuver said.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the region in early March, effectively wiped out the spring high-school sports season as well as recreational leagues. The fate of other summer programs is being mulled by organizers.
Klopfenstein said some NVSL pools have yet to apply for permits to open, and others are considering staying closed for the summer. Some swim team members from pools that weren’t opening already had been looking into changing membership to join pools that were planning to open, in order to swim with those teams.
If the season – slated to start June 20 – had not been canceled, it certainly would not have been normal. The start certainly would have been delayed and the schedule likely altered. Concessions might not have been allowed to open for meets.
Team dues will be fully refunded, and senior swimmers and divers still will have the opportunity to apply for higher-education scholarships. The league is discussing allowing senior swimmers who would have participated in their final season this summer to return for the 2021 campaign.
“It’s disappointing, definitely for our seniors and for all of our swimmers who had different goals for the summer season,” Koons said.
The NVSL, which began in 1956, consists of 17 divisions.