Megan Reiter doesn’t know what she’ll do on Saturday mornings this summer.
She likes getting up early, but now, the thing she was doing it for is gone, as the Greater Annapolis Swim League — one of the largest feeder systems for swimming in Anne Arundel County — has canceled its season.
On Monday, GASL, which hosts 20 youth teams across the county, voted 15-1 with four teams abstaining to forgo its 2020 summer slate due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. In a world that’s already lost pro, college and high school sports, GASL is the latest victim — and one of many swim leagues across the nation shutting down, even across Maryland.
The league has suspended operations until October, and no teams will be permitted to compete, or even practice, under GASL authority in 2020.
Practices would normally begin after Memorial Day, with a season wrapped up by the end of July.
High school senior swimmers who will graduate out of GASL-age after this summer will be invited back to compete next year, GASL president Jake Miller said in an email.
Health of her young swimmers is Reiter’s main concern, but that doesn’t mean losing swimming this summer doesn’t sting. Reiter, daughter of St. Mary’s longtime coach Allyson Reiter, began coaching at 13 years old and has led the Bay Ridge Marlins since 2015. She saw the writing on the wall when the league convened for an emergency session a few weeks ago.
“USA Swimming teams are shutting down all across the country, and that was not especially promising. I was a little worried," Reiter said. “It’s really disappointing. For my community, Bay Ridge, the swim team is such an important part of summer, that all the kids and parents really love.”
Losing GASL for a year doesn’t just mean losing a summer of swim competition to Reiter. It’s instead emblematic of another factor of community life that’s been sucked away by the pandemic.
“It’s really a community effort, a chance for kids who might not go to the same school to be on the same team. It’s a chance for neighbors to see each other every day," Reiter said. "(It provides) competition against kids they might know from school who live in another neighborhood. It really anchors summer for a lot of our families. For myself, too.”
It was for that reason that Matthew Swensen, head coach of the Davidsonville Swim Team, cast the lone vote against canceling the GASL season.
“For the families in the event that we can do something. That was our mentality. If it’s really going to not happen, it would get shut down for us, by the state,” said Swensen, who has coached in GASL for seven years. This would have been his second as Davidsonville’s head coach.
Swensen believes a safer way to conduct a season would be to push it back to June, as was suggested in the league’s meeting a few weeks back, and to host “virtual” competitions. Each team would swim in their own pools and pit those times against the other team miles away to determine a winner.