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The cold darkness of winter is gone...or is it: Issue 6

Will Chavez, Mullen Senior
Training for Will Chavez has turned from surf to turf. In the time of coronavirus (COVID-19), the swimmer writes about being unassuming, surprised and staring at reality. His end-of-high-school road has gone from highway to alley, a before-and-after shot still very much in the works for him and every other senior. 
Third trimester has always been my favorite time of the academic year for several reasons.

Gone is the cold and darkness of winter; the high-school swim season is in full swing; I have my biggest club meet of the year; and to cap it all off, summer comes at the end of it.

This year was going to be no different as I was gearing up for the busiest couple of months of my swimming year, with high-school swim meets every week, invitationals every couple of weekends, and league and state championships at the end. In addition, I had Speedo Sectionals in March and TYR Pro Swim Series in May with the ultimate goal of being at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June.

For the first two or three weeks of spring, it was great. I was seeing my favorite coaches every day. I was enjoying swimming more than I ever had and was generally excited for what was to come over the next few months. And on March 10, Mullen announced the closure of school beginning on March 12, which would act as an extended spring break. I think all of us thought that would be the extent of the closures and it was to work in my favor by giving me a whole eight days of being able to focus on my body and swimming leading into sectionals, my best chance at qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

But March 12, for me, was the day that the world came crashing down. It was becoming increasingly apparent that we would not be returning to in-person learning at the conclusion of our spring break. Our meet against Cherry Creek that afternoon was canceled and a prep-wide suspension of all spring activities until, at the time, April 6. USA Swimming announced a ban on all competitions until April 30, canceling sectionals the ensuing week and ultimately canceling the Pro Swim Series in May.

So now what?

No swimming and no school for who knows how long and, potentially, not until I arrive in Carbondale, Ill. in August (has signed with Southern Illinois). Having not been in a pool in more than three weeks (the longest I’ve gone in more than six years) and pools being closed indefinitely, I’ve had to get really creative with my workouts. And I have very limited experience outside of the pool. The learning curve for maintaining my body has been as difficult as the workouts themselves, which now include a variety of different types of exercises every day.

The uncertainty of everything makes this whole situation worse. Like the rest of my classmates, I want my senior year back. We want our spring seasons, we want to compete with our friends/teammates one more time. We would give anything to be back in the hallways and classrooms at Mullen. We want to go out big. But the uncertainty of everything and not having definitive answers. Will I ever put a Mullen swim cap on again? Will I get my last chance to swim for another state title? Or will I ever walk out to “Kung Fu Fighting” with my relay team wearing shirts that state: “Surely, not everybody was Kung Fu Fighting.”

I wrote everything above before Mullen announced the closure of school for the remainder of the year. And now there is a definitive answer to all of my questions: No. And it remains a question: So now what?

I think that the only thing there really is to do is to look back on the nearly four years and be grateful for everything that did happen in my time at Mullen. I’ll never forget the first day of freshman year and my first homecoming or diving into my very first race for Mullen against Smoky Hill. Or sophomore year, winning the state title in the 400-yard freestyle relay and taking third at the meet with only six swimmers. And junior year, winning the 100 freestyle at the Centennial League meet and walking out with my best friends to “Kung Fu Fighting” at state, where our Susan Stone won coach of the year and we took fourth. And, finally, senior year, getting the bandanas and that last Wednesday, when we all thought we’d be back in classrooms and in the pool in just under two weeks.

No, I’ll never put the Mullen cap on again. I’ll never race for Coach Susan again. I’ll never walk the halls at Mullen again and I don’t know when I’m going to get to walk across the stage to get my diploma.

But with all of the memories and experiences I’ve had at Mullen over the past few years, I think I’ll be OK with it.
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