It is certainly obvious that due to COVID-19 our society is in the midst of some sort of very real, sci-fi-like metamorphisis. Terms like social distancing, quarantine and isolation have shoved their way to the forefront of our vocabulary and reflect an ugly world-wide episode of historic proportions. Layer by layer the Coronavirus is rotten to the core. Far beneath the horrors found in the daily headlines, the world of sport suffers as well. Professional athletes have, of course, put their millions on hold while many amateurs face an uncomfortable uncertainty. Other amateur athletes, in particular Saucon Valley High School seniors who compete in spring and some winter sports, have been robbed of what is perhaps the sweetest pinnacle of their athletic careers.
Nothing characterizes this misfortune more than the plight of a small group of athletes on the Saucon Valley Swim and Dive team who qualified for the 2020 PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Seniors Kyle Kerr, Ryan Kerr and Noah Mauro along with junior Milo Whitley and freshman Adler Zawodny celebrated their way through Districts and earned their way to the Pennsylvania state championships at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. However, as is outlined in the timeline below, these young men, and countless others, had an opportunity of a lifetime stripped away from them.
Saturday, February 29th
- The District XI Swimming and Dive Championships concluded with Saucon Valley swimmers and a diver performing very well in the AA classification and qualifying for States.
- Freshman Adler Zawodny finished 4th in the 100M Butterfly (54.23).
- Senior Ryan Kerr finished 3rd in 200 Individual Medley (2:01.88).
- Senior Noah Mauro won his third straight District XI Diving title (435.30).
- Junior Milo Whitley and senior Kyle Kerr along with brother Ryan and Adler Zawodny won District XI gold in the 200M Freestyle Relay (1:30.97). The SV record is 1:30.37.
- Whitley, Kerr, Kerr and Zawodny also won District gold in the 400M Freestyle Relay (3:19.92). The SV school record is 3:19.10.
- Side Note: Even though they did not qualify for States, Saucon Valley sophomores Maggie Chi, Katie Lohr, Hailey Robertson and Kyla Lambrugo set a school record in the 200M Freestyle Relay (1:47.74).
Wednesday, March 11th
- Following practice Coach Ed Kolosky and crew loaded a school van and left Saucon Valley for Williamsport which is a thirty minute drive north of Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium. Kinney is the PIAA’s venue for the state swimming and diving championships. The boys and their coaches stayed at a Holiday Inn in Williamsport.
- The team had a late dinner at a local Perkins which was just across the street from the hotel. It was while eating dinner that, according to Kyle Kerr, the team found out that the NBA season was postponed due to Coronavirus. Kyle said, “But, we never really expected that to impact our swimming since we believed if they were going to cancel the meet, they would have done it sooner.”
- The boys spent the remainder of the night relaxing in their hotel rooms and playing Xbox.
Thursday, March 12th
- At about 7:45 a.m. Coach Kolosky transported Noah Mauro to the natatorium prior to his teammates so that Noah could register and practice his diving. Registration for the Divers was scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Once Noah connected with his dive coaches, Coach Kolosky headed back to Williamsport to pick up Ryan, Kyle, Adler, and Milo. The swimming registration was scheduled for 11:45-12:30 followed by warm-ups from 1:00-1:45. After picking up the boys it was on the return trip to Bucknell that the group began to realize the seriousness of the situation.
- During the drive to Bucknell, Adler Zawodny received texts from friends who were competing that morning in the AAA classification. Zawodny relayed to his Saucon teammates that the AAA preliminary competition times were going to be counted as the finals and that AA would follow suit over the next two days. Milo Whitley recalled, “We were driving to Bucknell and Adler got a text from a friend at the pool that said they’d only do prelims and no finals.” This, in order to speed up the process and compact the entire meet into just one day. The intent was to get everybody home safely and presumably mitigate any potential spread of the virus.
- Upon arrival at the natatorium Kolosky’s crew was met by a security guard standing outside of the registration area who informed them that the meet was being postponed. According to Kyle Kerr, “None of us wanted to believe this was true and we went in to register anyway.”
- At about 12:15 p.m. several teams crowded inside the natatorium throughout the registration area. The news quickly spread by PIAA officials that, based on CDC guidelines, Governor Wolf had shut everything down and that the meet had been postponed. According to Coach Kolosky one PIAA official stated, “You are all going home, the meet has been suspended.”
“In support of the recommendation of the CDC and Health Officials throughout the country, that large indoor sporting events should not continue as the country seeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Swimming and Diving Championships have been postponed. We will provide further information as it becomes available.”
PIAA statement (3/12/2020)
- Coach Kolosky recalled, “Noah Mauro then appeared from diving warm-ups, shaking his head as he was already informed of the circumstances inside the natatorium. I believe that Noah, as well as the rest of us were in disbelief about what was going on. Noah is a pretty quiet fellow, but I could read his facial expression and it spoke of disappointment and sadness. The big question in all of our minds at this time was if and when it was going to be rescheduled?”
- “The whole moment was pretty surreal, I don’t think it fully registered until days after the event, it still hasn’t really fully registered with me,” said Ryan Kerr. “In the moment, we were all mostly irritated that we had done so much preparation just to be rejected on the footstep of what was the most monumental meet of my career. To be turned away from such a moment was crushing, especially considering that there were people [AAA competitors] in the pool at that very moment living out my shattered dream.”
- Kyle Kerr offered, “I think all of us were numb to the situation. Mentally, we were all ready to race but instead we were leaving the facility. We ended up checking out of our hotel and headed home.”
Friday, March 13th
- Governor Wolf made the announcement to temporarily close all schools at about 3 p.m.
- “I expected schools to be closed soon because they cancelled the meet”, said Kyle Kerr.
- Ryan Kerr reflected, “When we got the call from the governor that school was cancelled for the next two weeks, I knew that there was no way that everything would just clear up that quickly. I knew that I would not have the end of my senior year or the end of my swimming career.”
Thursday, April 9th
- Governor Wolf closes school for the remainder of the year. PIAA cancels championships.
- Kyle Kerr said, “It wasn’t very surprising when they finally cancelled the meet. All of us were really disappointed that we didn’t get that one last chance to break the two records [SV 200 & 400M Relay records]. I would have never suspected that the rest of my senior year would be cancelled due to the pandemic.”
- “My heart goes out to all the swimmers and winter athletes whose athletic careers were left unwritten,” stated Ryan Kerr.
Hopes and dreams that were built upon countless hours of training and preparation crashed quickly for many student-athletes that day in Lewisburg. The Saucon Valley relay swimmers were legitimate contenders to get on the podium with a top-10 finish and earn state medals. In addition, their District XI times in the two relay events were each about a half-second away from the Saucon Valley school record, set in 2007 by brothers Kyle and Kevin Shoemaker along with Alex Wolfe and Andrew Parry. “We knew that it was very likely that we would be able to get both records at states,” said Kyle Kerr. “We were seeded 13th in both events, but there was a lot of room to get into the top-10 since our times were really close to the times of other schools.”
“I believe Noah was a legitimate contender for PIAA State gold this year,” Kolosky said. “He had improved so much from his previous years level. He was performing dives that he would have never attempted in past years”. As a junior Mauro placed 7th at the 2019 PIAA Diving Championships.
Now, of course, it will never happen. In addition to the headlining horrors, coronavirus crushed countless dreams and brought about an abrupt ending to many high school careers. The mission to climb onto the PIAA podium and take down some long-standing Saucon Valley records suddenly evaporated into thin air before the competition ever got started.
Through it all Kyle Kerr found his silver lining, “As much as I am sad that this was the way I had to end my swimming career, I’m happy to at least know that I finished it as a District champion with my team.” Ryan echoed his brother’s thoughts and expanded, “Our experience is nothing compared to the agony of the Spring athletes, who never even got to officially begin their season.”
Coach’s Quote“I wouldn’t trade my experiences with this year’s Swim and Dive teams here at Saucon for anything. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Coach Maggie O’Lock and Coach Liz Chikotas, but the team made me and the SV community very proud. Seniors, move forward with your lives and continue to do great things. You are leaders, and the world will always be in need of you. Underclassmen, I look forward to seeing all of you back next year with your enthusiasm and dedication. God bless.”Saucon Valley Swim and Dive Coach, Ed Kolosky
Best wishes Panthers, the Source is with you!