The Dakota Riptide hopes to compete this summer, but knows it’s not a forgone conclusion.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Riptide’s schedule has been cleared and the South Dakota Local Swimming Community (LSC) state meet was canceled. Now, it awaits a June 15 decision by USA Swimming on whether it will sanction a season, which would start no sooner than July 1.
When teams jump back into the pool varies across the state, but the Riptide will join Pierre by holding its first practice on Monday at the Mitchell Recreation Center after a three-month break. Aberdeen won’t begin practices until July 1 and Rapid City has talked about delaying a return until September, according to Dakota Riptide coach Clyde Smith.
“We do understand if there was a COVID spike, we’d have to stop,” Smith said. “… But we’re going to hope for the best and start next Monday.”
Mitchell has 67 registered swimmers, but practices will be limited to 10 kids for 50 minutes. There will be two swimmers in each lane starting on opposite sides, too.
The Riptide are abiding by USA swimming recommendations to avoid injuries after a three-month hiatus. They will have two 50-minute practices per week for four weeks compared to its usual two-hour practices, and then it will explore moving to Hitchcock Park. Smith wants to make sure his team is comfortable with the social distancing guidelines before adding a second facility.
“Hopefully in July, we don’t see a spike and everybody is comfortable with the visual of what the swim team is doing, and we’re doing our part that we’re keeping the social distancing guidelines in place,” Smith said. “Then we’ll try to add one or two more kids per lane.”
The goal is to show parents a practice can be held while following social distancing guidelines and having their kids getting in and out of practice quickly and safely, in case there’s a spike later in the year.
“We’re working under the assumption that we may be in a similar situation come December (and) November,” Smith said.
Despite practices beginning, the possibility of meets is in flux. If USA Swimming sanctions a season, Smith wants to schedule meets in early-to-mid August, giving his team “a goal to work for.” If not, the Riptide will train for their usual ramp-up in October and November, with hopes of peaking in December.
Watertown has reached out to the Riptide about potentially having a meet in September or October, though. Smith knows the size of the meet would need to be kept to a minimum. Any meet this summer would likely be an intrasquad meet between Mitchell swimmers, or a dual meet.
“That’d be something we really want to do, no matter the scale,” Smith said. “… The best we can hope for for our “season” is a dual meet, if we can pull that off.”