The potential Olympic futures of some top Maine swimmers is suddenly up in the air after the recent announcement by the International Olympic Committee that the 2020 Tokyo summer games have been postponed because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Jay Morissette, the coach of the Long Reach Swim Club based at the Bath Y, was working with two swimmers who had already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and two others who were preparing for meets in an attempt to qualify to compete at the trials.
He said members of the swimming community understand why the decision had to be made.
“It is not a surprising decision. Watching events unfold in the United States and across the globe the last two weeks, you anticipated this decision,” Morissette said. “We are disappointed but certainly understand why the decision was made. There are a host of valuable life lessons for all of us these days,” Morissette said.
Earlier this month, in response to the coronavirus, the Long Reach Swim Club suspended all training and activities.
“We may or may not be coming back anytime soon. There are so many unknowns and uncertainties,” Morissette said.
James Wells and Olivia Harper, members of Morissette’s national team, had qualified in the 100-yard backstroke for the Olympic Trials, originally scheduled for June in Omaha, Nebraska. Two other LRSC national team members, Brandon Johnson and Juliana McDonald, were headed for Olympic Trials national qualifying meets this spring in a quest to earn a spot at the trials.
Now, everything is on hold.
“We will get together as coaches and with the national group and decide if we will devote another year to training,” Morissette said. “In the fall, Olivia will begin training at the University of Tennessee where she will swim next year. The others will have to make profound life decisions.”
Harper, a senior at Morse High of Bath, finished second in the 100-yard backstroke at the 2019 YMCA Short Course Nationals and owns the Maine interscholastic record in the event at 54.2 seconds.
Johnson raced in the finals of the 2019 YMCA Long Course finals in 50 butterfly and 50 free.
McDonald is a former swimmer for the University of Maine where she is a record holder in multiple events. At the 2019 American East Swimming and Diving Championships, McDonald set conference records in the 50 freestyle (22.8) and the 100 free (49.8) and was named Most Outstanding Swimmer.
Wells, an All-American at Indiana University who began racing for Long Reach as an age-group swimmer, competed in the Olympic Trials in 2012 and 2016 and represented the United States at the 2013 World University Games.
Morissette has coached several swimmers associated who competed in previous Olympic Trials including Kristin Veal (1996), Nile Janney (2008), Jesse Alcaide and Hailey Hewitt (2012), Caitlyn Tycz (2016) and Wells. Abbie King (2008) swam in the Canadian Olympic Trials.
The announcement by the IOC and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stipulated the Olympics “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than the summer of 2021.”
Tim Hinchey, CEO of USA Swimming, released a statement Tuesday regarding the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.
“USA swimming will work with our athletes, coaches, teams, and committees to shift our preparation and schedule a calendar of events that properly readies our team for 2021,” Hinchey said. “We will work closely with the USOPC (U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee) on rescheduling the U.S. Olympic Trials to best align with the Olympic Games as further details become available.”
Cahill receives Emery award
At the Maine Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Banquet held earlier this month, Kate Cahill recently was presented with the Phil Emery Sprit of the Sport Award.
Cahill coached at Brewer High School for 30 years before being named head coach emeritus for the Witches. She serves as the Penobscot Valley Conference swimming and diving facilitator responsible for scheduling and PVC championship management and organization.
During her career at Brewer, Cahill received numerous honors including the distinguished National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association Service Award in 2015. In 2006, the Maine Principals’ Association recognized her for her state meet dedication. She was named the Maine coach of the year in 1994 and 2018.
The Emery Award is named for the former Bangor High School boys swimming and diving coach. His teams won 26 state championships in 46 seasons under his leadership.