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Schooners looking toward future after trip postponement

News Photo by James Andersen Members of the Thunder Bay Schooners team pictured from left to right include, kneeling: Logan Mill and coach DeAnn Carter; sitting: Izzy Szymanski and Kara Short; standing: Ben Adamiak, Madi Szymanski, Mia Lenning and John Short. Not pictured are: Evie Bicker, Andrew Dargis, Nicholas Dargis, Liam Heraghty, Tanner Male-King, Garet McQuarrie, Rachel Suszek and Tilly Williams. The Schooners were scheduled to send 15 swimmers to Germany for a meet next week, but the meet has been postponed until 2021 due to worldwide health concerns.

A planned overseas trip for the Thunder Bay Schooners will have to wait another year.

Amid worldwide concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the Schooners will not be participating in the ninth PAMINA Swimming Festival in Bad Bergzabern, Germany.

Fifteen swimmers and several coaches were scheduled to leave on March 9 for the two-day festival on March 14-15, but coach DeAnn Carter found out last Friday the meet was cancelled by the German Olympic Committee and German Minister of Health.

“I was completely shocked and devastated. I sat there and re-read the email over and over again, just wanting to make sure I’d read it right,” Carter said. “To have to face them that day at swim practice was so hard. They were so upset because they’ve worked so hard to go to this meet.”

The email Carter received read in part: “Since most of our swim friends and guests of the competition come from areas in which the coronavirus has already occurred, we decided to cancel the meet after talking to the responsible authorities and the sports association….It truly wasn’t an easy decision for us and we are disappointed at some point. But there’s no doubt–health comes first.”

News Photo by James Andersen The back of the Schooners’ team jackets is shown with a red star indicating Alpena’s place on a map of Michigan.

The number of coronavirus cases around the globe has topped 95,000 and nearly 90 countries have been affected. The number of confirmed cases in Germany is at more than 200, but other countries have been hit harder, such that the governments of some teams have already prohibited participation in competitions abroad.

There have also been discussions about cancelling the 2020 Summer Olympics, which run from July 24 to Aug. 9 in Tokyo.

“Being here in Alpena, Michigan, I never truly dreamed that the coronavirus would even touch us, let alone cause something of this magnitude for us,” Carter said. “It’s very, very disappointing.”

The Schooners have been planning for the meet for the past year, competing in meets around the state, fundraising and preparing to be the United States’ representative overseas.

In preparation for the meet, members of the Schooners had special team jackets ordered with “USA” and a map of Michigan printed on the back. The team also bought swim caps to wear during competition and extra caps to trade with their fellow competitors.

The invitation-only meet, which brings together youth teams from approximately 30 nations, was scheduled to be held on March 14-15 with several events, including 100 meter races in the backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and free style as well as a 200 meter individual medley.

“It didn’t seem like it was actually going to happen, like it was real. It was kind of like a shock like, ‘Wow, we get this opportunity,” Ben Adamiak, one of the Schooners’ captains, said. “It’s a lot of daily working out, staying in condition and then when it gets closer, it’s about working a lot on technique and the finer details of swimming.

Carter had several teams participate in the meet as a coach in Texas and international teams would in turn come to swim in the United States as part of an exchange program. When Carter got the invite last year and presented it to the Schooners’ board, the idea was well-received and families of Schooners’ swimmers planned to pay their own way for the trip.

Despite the disappointment over the sudden cancellation, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The competition will be held on March 20-21, 2021 and all but one of the 15 Schooners who were set to attend this year will be able to compete.

That group includes–with age in parentheses: Ben Adamiak (16); Evie Bicker (12); Andrew Dargis (15); Nicholas Dargis (12); Liam Heraghty (15); Mia Lenning (14); Tanner Male-King (11); Garet McQuarrie (14); Logan Mill (11); John Short (14); Kara Short (12); Rachel Suszek (17); Izzy Szymanski (11); Madison Szymanski (15) and Tilly Williams (15).Carter said having the extra year to prepare might possibly allow for more club members to compete next year if they qualify.“We’ve been invited for next year and we so plan to go, so we’re trying to stay positively and say, ‘Ok, now we have another year to work, another year to fundraise and earn even more money,'” Carter said.

The Schooners have received some donations from local groups and held various fundraisers in the past year, including a bottle drive in February that ultimately netted more than $1,700.

Carter also shared the Schooners’ story on Twitter shorty after the cancellation announcement and ultimately communicated with the corporate office at United Airlines, who gave the team travel vouchers, many of which will likely be used for next year’s trip.

Though the 2021 meet is still more than a year away, the Schooners are still plenty excited about the opportunity. Izzy Szymanski, who has been swimming with the club for three years, has already been texting Carter every day with a countdown clock.

“I was really sad and I was really mad. I didn’t believe it was canceled, but it’s just not what God had in mind. It really stunk,” Szymanski said. “I was just really excited for the experience. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard of before and I can’t wait.”

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