Swimmers from Lowville Academy stand at the edge of the pool during a practice in 2017. South Jefferson and Indian River were among the first schools to hold practice Monday as low- and moderate-risk sports were allowed to train. Photo provided

It may not be “everyone into the pool,” but a number of north country swimmers finally were able to practice.

The South Jefferson and Indian River boys swim teams were two of the first Frontier League programs to practice this winter season when they held an afterschool session Monday at their pool in Adams and Philadelphia, respectively.

The schools were the first off the starting blocks as low- and moderate-risk winter sports in the league got the green light.

“It was great to be back in the pool,” Indian River head coach Alan Baker said. “We’ve got some veterans back and some new kids that came out to stay in shape.”

Both schools had about half of their rosters in attendance as the school is divided into two groups. Indian River and South Jeff divided their practices based on what athletes are in school that day. Both schools have a Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday in-person model at the moment.

South Jeff coach Paul Gaede said that 12 athletes were part of the inaugural practice of the season. He said that his swimmers looked good despite not being near a pool for a long time.

“They seem excited, but they might be a little sore tomorrow,” Gaede quipped. “A lot of these guys have only been swimming (during) the summer on the lake.”

Bowling and rifle were the only other sports in the area that were permitted to go ahead in the current pandemic. High-risk sports such as volleyball, basketball, hockey and wrestling have not received permission and their respective starts have been postponed indefinitely.

Fall sports in Jefferson County were limited to the Lewis County schools of Copenhagen, Beaver River, Lowville and South Lewis, but those seasons were halted due to the coronavirus after only two-plus weeks. Schools in St. Lawrence County also played soccer and ran cross country and a number did finish their respective seasons.

The Frontier League coaches will get together and have a virtual meeting later this week to hash out a schedule and how meets may look. Many meets could take place virtually, with teams swimming in their own pool and compiling times.

Syracuse-area schools have been going this route to prevent teams from spreading the virus to other schools.

“We are looking to do virtual meets this season,” Watertown head coach and league chairman Tom Graban said.

Graban added that teams can do traditional face-to-face meets if both schools agree to it, but that decision will likely come down to athletic directors and superintendents. Graban added that there will be no league, Section 3 or state meets this season, which is a blow because the Cyclone teams usually perform well at all three levels. However, Graban agrees his swimmers will be happy to prepare for events.

“It gives them something to look forward to,” said Graban, who indicated that Watertown will hopefully start practices later this week.

Swimmers can still earn a spot for sectionals and get a wristband from Section 3 for reaching the qualifying standard. The incentive will be enough to motivate some to compete despite the less-than-optimum situation.

“It’s a chance for (athletes) to go for times and they can still qualify for sectionals,” Baker said.

Meets will also have no or very few fans this season to try to prevent mass gatherings of people. Gaede said that only swimmers and officials will be permitted to attend meets, but they will have solutions such as streaming and posting results online.

“It’s going to a lot quieter without people cheering them on,” Gaede said. “Their teammates and coaches will have to help cheer them on.”

One thing athletes are having to do is wear masks at all points other than in the water. Athletes had to wear masks during soccer and other fall sports.

“They wear them to the locker room, they wear them on the deck, they’re pretty much used to it,” Gaede said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Reporter/Agate Person

A lifelong resident of Northern New York. Dan graduated from Lyme Central School and attended SUNY Oswego. He's worked in all forms of media, including radio and print. Dan covers hockey, wrestling, track and field, tennis, volleyball and golf.

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