2020 | Coronavirus

Montgomery County Swim League cancels major events, unsure about entire season

Considering virtual options for competition

The Montgomery County Swim League has canceled this season’s marquee swim meets, but has not yet decided if COVID-19 will sink the entire summer swim season.

Summer swimmers are facing what might be the first time in the league’s 60 year-history of not having a team season this year.

The league, one of the most popular summer recreational events in Montgomery County each summer, is made up of 88 teams and approximately 13,800 athletes. Each team represents a different county-owned, community or neighborhood pool.

Traditionally, the league starts with time trials around Memorial Day weekend and ends in early August.

“At this time, we remain hopeful that we can have some type of competitive swim season, but we caution that it may not resemble our ‘traditional’ MCSL season,” the MCSL executive board wrote in a message to the league.

This year’s most elite MSCL swimmers will not be able to go head to head in the events for the league’s fastest competitors. The MSCL board has already canceled both the Individual All-Stars and Coaches Longcourse Invitational meets, both considered the highest-quality meets of the summer swim league for individual athletes.

Also canceled is the final team swim meet of the season, which determines which summer team wins each division, as well as the All-Star Relays and Divisional Relay Carnival meets. Those meets each draw more than 1,000 people.

MSCL Executive Board President Kathy Aitken said the league is relying on direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local governments on whether pools can open at all and if there will be restrictions when they do.

“We would love there to be some kind of a season, but it may not ultimately be up to us,” she said.

On the table are some nontraditional options. The season could include virtual meets, in which swimmers perform their event at their home pool and exchange times via automation. Another option could be starting the meets later in the summer.

“If our Olympic swimmers can swallow down the loss of the Olympic trials and Olympics this year and readjust, then our local swimmers can, too,” Aitken said.

Jim Hallmark, a nine-year Team Rep for the Bethesda Barracudas, said the season’s future is in flux. The Barracudas swim at the county-owned Bethesda Outdoor Pool.

“It just all depends on whether the county will allow it or not,” Hallmark said.

The team averages 200 participants and competes in the highest division of the swim league.

“This was going to be my daughter’s send-off year because she is a senior,” he said.

Similar to the MCSL, the Country Club Swim and Dive Association, or CCSDA, is trying to make a decision on the summer swim season.

Made up of 15 country clubs throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area, the association has been around since 1952 and has ended each season with Champs, a finale meet in late July.

Association President Patrick Christmas estimated Champs brings together upward of 2,000 people between swimmers, meet operators and fans.

“We are really in a wait-and-see stance,” he said, with things like delaying the season and “virtual” meets an option.

“Safety of everyone is at the forefront,” Christmas said. “We will try to do as much as we can.”