Return to pool gives Congdon sense of normalcy amidst COVID

October 29, 2020

Bret Congdon

Anchorage’s Bret Congdon this weekend will return to the pool with the University of Colorado Mesa women’s swim team for the first time since March, when COVID shut down the sports world.

The last seven months have felt like a roller coaster ride due to the pandemic, but she has done her best to manage her emotions.

“This year is so upside down,” Congdon said. “I feel like every athlete is impacted.”

Her sophomore season has already been delayed nearly a month and her anxiety is growing about the uncertainty looming over the rest of the season.

Getting back in the water, however, has provided her some sense of normalcy.

Even if the new normal is different.

“We all get tested,” Congdon said. “We have to limit the amount of people we have in the pool. If you’re not swimming you have a mask on. We spread out. It is possible to conduct it safely.”

Congdon, of West High fame, is coming off a fabulous freshman season in which she was a five-time champion at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and part of a CSCAA honorable mention All-American relay team.

She was a member of the Colorado Mesa 200-yard freestyle relay team that qualified for the NCAA D2 Championships but wasn’t able to compete after the meet was canceled on Day 2 due to the COVID outbreak.

“It was like having your whole world blow up,” she said. “You had people who were crying, parents who were crying. You had seniors who hadn’t been able to race their last race. It was awful.”

The scene of swimmers standing outside the arena still in their warmups, stunned and sobbing, has haunted Congdon.

“Finishing up the school year was tough and then just coming into this year, it’s crazy knowing that everything can be ripped away instantaneously,” she said.

She is excited for Colorado Mesa to open the season Saturday against Western Colorado and feels safe based on the protective measures taken by school officials.

“The university has been doing a really good job of maintaining symptoms for people,” she said. “Every day before you step into a university building you have to sign this symptoms tracker and if anything is red flagged, you can’t come into the building and you have to go get tested. It’s a really nice set-up with the contact tracing and everything like that.”

With COVID cases on the rise nationwide, there are fears college sports could suffer more setbacks in the future.

To counter the uncertainty, the NCAA approved a blanket waiver for all 2020 fall athletes, allowing athletes to treat this year as a training year.

“No matter what happens this year I’m still going to have four full years of collegiate swimming,” Congdon said.