Leona Barocas

Junior Elena Sjaastad gives a pep talk during a meet against Como Park at Humboldt on Sept. 2.

SPARKS dive into full season

Few high school sports can offer an experience quite like a swim team can. For starters, it’s the only sport that doesn’t take place on solid ground. Swimmers don their goggles, caps, and racing suits and gracefully throw themselves into the water of the pool, divided into lanes to allow for competition. The limbs fly and the water splashes everywhere. Competitors perform strokes, flip-turns, and dives with no room for mistake. Swim team is a specific experience and a staple of SPA’s high school sports. This year, the SPARKS swim and dive team are coached by Stephen Satnick, and lead by captains Divya Bhargava and Katherine Welsh.

“COVID significantly impacted the season last year, when we had reduced-capacity practices and virtual meets,” said senior Marie Schumacher, “Our coach got COVID right after the season ended, but no one on the team tested positive.”

“We were fortunate to still have a season last year, but it was very different from past years. We swam meets at our pool instead of at Humboldt with another team, which made it difficult to get motivated,” said junior Linnea Cooley, expressing similar sentiments. “This year, we’re still getting used to being able to have a more normal season, but I feel like the team community is a lot stronger now that we have full practices and get to take a bus together to meet,” said Cooley.

Now, SPARKS is starting to readjust to pre-pandemic team norms. They practice four to six times a week at Highland Park, the school whose swim team is combined with SPA’s to create the team. The team warms up and then dives into practice, swimming in lanes alongside people at similar speeds or who do the same strokes competitively. SPARKS has meets on Thursdays, where they compete against one other team in their league.

“We’re finally getting into some harder practice sets now, and we’ve had two meets,” said Schumacher, “We had some difficulties finding a coach- our head coach is actually the diving coach- but the coach from my freshman year agreed to come back as an assistant, and she has been great.”

Cooley said, “It’s nice to be able to have real meets again instead of the online alternative and to have everyone at the same practice. I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to drop some time in my events over the course of this season, and I think that we have a lot of incredible swimmers this year.”

Though the pandemic has changed many things surrounding school sports, one thing it has not changed is team spirit. SPARKS is no exception to this. The team culture holds strong- it’s close and familial, a dynamic that can be hard to achieve with students from two different schools in the mix. However, the team manages, and they swim forward together.

“My experience on the team has been really positive. It is a large time commitment, but I’m grateful I can do a sport I love with an awesome team.” said Schumacher, “The team is super supportive, and I feel like we get to know each other really well during the season. I like that I’m able to connect with people in seventh through twelfth grade.”

“The team is very close, and a lot of us consider it like a family. Swimming is an individual sport, so it’s very easy to get in your head and super stressed out, but we put a lot of emphasis on supporting each other and cheering to keep it fun,” said Cooley, “The team is a co-op with SPA and Highland Park… but we’re very much a single team and not just two schools sharing a pool.”

SPARKS next meet is against Harding Oct. 5, at Humboldt High School.

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