Swimmers come through the doors at 5:30 a.m. to train

They started showing up at dawn Monday.

Swimmers who had not had a chance to practice in more than two months came to Bluewater Aquatic Center in Apple Valley, anxious to get back to training. However, almost nothing was the same as it had been before.

The state of Minnesota pulled back coronavirus-related restrictions enough to allow Riptide Swim Team members to return to practice at Bluewater and the neighboring Wise Swim School. Retailers also were allowed to re-open on a limited basis, while places such as gyms, bars and restaurants are to remain closed until at least June 1.

The changes left enough wiggle room for Riptide to welcome its swimmers back. Club members include a number of the top high school swimmers in the south metro – and one future Olympian in Lakeville North High School senior Regan Smith, world record holder in the women’s 100- and 200-meter backstroke races.

Before they could come into the building, however, they have to read and abide by a detailed set of guidelines the club sent to members last week in advance of the re-opening. The guidelines told swimmers when to arrive, what door to use, what to wear and what not to wear. It even spelled out the protocol for bathroom breaks.

The club expects about 300 swimmers per day but is restricted to one swimmer per lane in the pool. “This has us running from 5:30 a.m. through 9:30 p.m.,” Riptide program director Paul Smith said in a email. “It’s a huge load on our coaching and administrative staff and on our parent volunteers that have so selflessly supported this opening.”

Swimmers needed to have their temperature checked (no more than 100.4 degrees) before going into the pool and answer two COVID-19-related screening questions at a check-in table. They needed to arrive wearing their suits and caps. Backpacks and cellphones weren’t allowed. Water bottles were allowed and even encouraged so swimmers didn’t have to use drinking fountains.

Parents and spectators weren’t allowed in the building.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the effort the vast majority of our families put into taking the time to understand our policies and procedures,” Paul Smith said. “Bluntly, we expected a far more difficult day (Monday) but things actually went quite smoothly, all things considered.”

It appears this will be standard operating procedure for a while. Under ideal circumstances Riptide swimmers would be training with an eye toward competing in local and state summer meets. At this point, however, nobody knows when the next meet will be. Minnesota-sanctioned events won’t be held this summer, although Paul Smith said national-level swimmers might have an opportunity to compete by August.

“Sadly, we are most likely looking at fall for most kids” to have a chance to compete, Smith said. “I hope this changes and it certainly might. But for now we are in practice mode.”

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