Swim teams finish unique season


Junior Streett Martin swims laps at swim team practice on Feb. 12. The Wolf Pack men’s and women’s swim teams each finished receiving votes in the final NAIA national top ten poll after a season of virtual meets. Photo credit: Shadera Moore

Jabez Berniard

Swim meets for the Wolf Pack looked different this season, as swimmers took their marks on the blocks without competitors from other teams in the adjacent lanes.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Loyola New Orleans men’s and women’s swim teams were forced to halt all travel, instead opting to participate in virtual meets, where they were able to compete safely from The Den.

There was a lot of uncertainty going into the season, according to TJ Natal, head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams.

“I think the season like everything this year was new, it was unfamiliar,” said Natal. “Lots of things we didn’t know. But overall I think we were all excited just to have a season. We got to train as a team and we got the opportunity to compete.”

Although the team sometimes was forced to make last-minute adjustments, junior Anna Sitzman said she understood that it was all necessary.

“I’m very fortunate that Loyola did what they could to help us have a season even if it didn’t look how we expected,” said Sitzman. “I needed the routine, I needed the structure, and I needed the outlet.”

This transition to virtual competitions presented a learning opportunity for Streett Martin, a junior on the team.

“It was definitely weird,” said Martin. “I’m a very competitive person and not being able to pace myself off of the other person next to me was a really weird curve to get over, but I think in the end it still worked out. I found the push I needed to still go fast.”

For some swimmers, the absence of physical competitors allowed them to critique their form and technique.

“Even with a virtual situation you’re competitive with yourself,” said Sitzman. “You’re telling yourself if that turn was bad the next one you really have to hit it. It made you more focused on yourself than others.”

In order to minimize close contacts, no spectators were allowed at the meets. The team didn’t dwell on this for long as they banded together and cheered each other on from the sidelines.

“We had to set our own mood and set our own environment in order to bring energy and intensity to it,” said Natal.

Looking back on the season, Coach Natal commends the swimmers for making the most of what they were given, considering the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics canceled the 2021 Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving National Championships just days before their final meet.

The team was still able to bring home a host of first-place finishes and personal best times to close the season. Additionally, eight swimmers were named to the Mid-South Conference’s All-Academic teams, including Sitzman.

“It’s very easy at times of difficulty or unknown to give up, or to not want to do it or just to pass it off,” said Natal. “I think they did a great job of taking everything for what it’s worth, training through the ups and downs, and being there for one another. At the end of the year I think we did a really good job.”