Katie Thorn and Gaby Murray are thankful a school district stepped forward to give them the opportunity to swim as senior captains for Our Lady of Lourdes High School.
Beacon High School opened its doors to swimmers from four high schools in Dutchess County, including Lourdes, to use its pool with many schools and colleges closing their pools to outsiders during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much,” Katie told CNY when asked what she would say to coaches and school officials from Beacon for saving the season.
“I don't think they understand how much it meant to us to swim again. The swim team is like a family.”
Girls swimming is normally a fall sport in New York State, but it was moved to March, following the boys’ season, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Lourdes was still looking for a pool to call home when preseason workouts began in February in the school’s new health and wellness center blessed by Cardinal Dolan Feb. 10.
Lourdes athletic director William Kyle reached out to officials in the Beacon City School District, which had allowed boys’ teams representing three schools to use its high school pool earlier this year. The Warriors were granted permission to call Beacon’s pool home with four other schools, including Beacon, during the girls’ swim season.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to have a season,” Gaby said. “I’ve been thinking about my senior year since I was a freshman. The fact we were able to have anything really meant the world.”
Lourdes, which competes in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, was given 90 minutes for practices or meets six days per week, starting March 8.
“I was expecting coach to say we couldn’t find a pool,” Katie said. “When we got six days, it was so exciting because it was a little bit of normalcy coming back. I was fully prepared to not be back in the pool again in a competitive way.”
The Warriors, who finished with an 0-9 record in 2019, had a shortened preseason of six practices in the pool before opening their season, where they lost their first four meets before finishing the dual-meet season with a 4-6 record.
Four Lourdes swimmers—Valerie Bubel, Julia Napoli, Genevieve Bernhardt and Rosy Horgan—qualified for individual events and joined three Lourdes relays at the Section 1 championships, which were completed April 22 with the Warriors placing 24th.
All dual and invitational meets were done virtually, with swimmers competing in their home pool and times entered into a computer system to determine individual and team winners.
With the season shortened to six weeks, the coaching staff and swimmers lived with the concern of being quarantined for an extended period if someone tested positive or was exposed to Covid-19. The swimmers and coaches wore masks at all times, except for the time they were on the starting blocks and swam in the pool.
“It was an odd season as I stressed that at any moment, the season could end due to an unexpected quarantine,” said third-year head coach and former Lourdes swimmer Tom Bubel, who was assisted by his wife, Jill, and sister Eileen Bernhardt.
“The fact that we were able to get to the finish line with so many successes brought much happiness and definitely much relief to me. I was so afraid that all the hard work that the swimmers trained might not get to manifest itself at the end of the year but thank goodness we had a wonderful season.”
The behind the scenes work of the coaches and school administrators provided some competitive normalcy for 13 swimmers at Lourdes.
“The thing I’ll cherish most is the bond I had with the coaches and the girls,” Gaby said. “We just made it feel like a family, and it’s something that I really don’t think I could get anywhere other than from Lourdes.”