The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

I already had my suit on ready to warm up when I learned that it was all over. Everything I had been working on for years had been ended immediately. It was devastating.

Like many student-athletes, my season came to an abrupt end because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, first, let me back up a smidge.

Back in February, I learned that I got invited in an individual event to participate in the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships in Geneva, Ohio.

This was not the first time I swam at nationals, but it was the first time I had been invited in an individual event. Previously, I had gone for only relays. This go-round, I qualified in the 50-yard freestyle and was supposed to swim both the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke, as well.

I was ecstatic. I had finally achieved one of my lifelong goals, to qualify to swim individually at nationals. As a senior, this would be my last meet ever, my last time I would step up on the blocks wearing my Carson-Newman cap.

I had made it.

We swam the entire day that Wednesday, when I got to swim my favorite event, the 50 freestyle, as well as the 200-yard medley relay. We placed eighth in the relay, and I got 10th in the 50. The meet was off to an electric start, and we were going to carry that energy into the rest of the week.

Thursday morning, I got to swim two more relays, the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 400-yard medley relay. Both relay teams were slated to swim in the A final again that night. My entire team was so excited.

I did not know that the 400 medley relay that morning was going to be my last race ever.

We got back to the pool that afternoon, and not long after we got there, we learned that the remaining NCAA winter and spring championships, including ours, were canceled. I will always remember the shock I felt standing on that pool deck in Ohio. I knew my career was going to end a few days later, but I did not expect it to end so suddenly. I had anticipated the loss for words and tears that would come when I hit that wall for the last time. I did not expect it to end so abruptly, not when I had up to seven races left in my career.

It was heartbreaking to see my spring sport friends on social media posting about the abrupt ending to their careers. We were all hurting because there was absolutely nothing we could do.

The entire world was plunged into this pandemic. Everything was extremely unprecedented and incredibly surreal. We were adjusting to a new life without our sports, but even more so, we were having to watch our friends get on planes and leave us to go back to the safety of their homes.

Schools were getting shut down, and suddenly we had to complete all our classes online. Our lives were changing so quickly, and we were doing everything we could to keep up and stay afloat.

Though it certainly does not feel normal yet, I have had some time to reflect on everything that has happened and how I have adjusted to this new world of social distancing.

Despite being far from my friends, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with friends I have not been able to talk to in a while. Though no one really has access to a pool, my teammates from Carson-Newman have figured out how to be creative on social media to cultivate fun competition among one another in working out.

This new normal may mean FaceTiming a friend in another country to do a workout together because you can no longer be physically together. It also meant switching to doing school totally online — another huge adjustment. Keeping in constant contact with my classmates and teachers has made this go a bit smoother, though I do miss being in class in person quite a bit.

Like many, I miss the proximity of people. I miss things like high-fives and hugs. I miss going to the movies, and I really miss going to Target.

But, still, I am grateful. I’m grateful for the technology we have to be able to check on people through social media. I am grateful to be able to do a Zoom with friends who I haven’t seen in a long time. I am grateful for the extra time I have to read and re-watch every single Marvel movie.

Though this is not the situation we all thought we would be in right now, I think reflecting on the positives can help us stay grounded.

One question I’ve thought of throughout all of this: Would I have done anything differently that day in March if I had known my freestyle leg on the 400 medley relay would be my last swim ever?

I don’t think so.

Despite how excited I was to have made it individually this year, I am happy that my last swim was on a relay. I have always been a relay girl at heart. There is just something unique about knowing that your team relies on you.

Similarly, something that has given me a bit of comfort during this pandemic is that the entire world is in this together. We are all relying on one another to stay apart so that we can all stay safe and healthy, so that one day we will come out of this on the other side stronger together.

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