Red Deer Catalina teammates Logan Milman and Ben Bahler battle it out last year at the 67th annual Freeze or Fry Swim Meet at the Red Deer Recreation Centre. The event was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Catalina Swim Club swimmers back in the water

Monday was a joyous day all around for the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club.

With months of waiting and unknowns behind them, a group of swimmers from the club was finally able to get back in the pool and train after a significant time away from the sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catalina co-president Jenn Bahler said despite the unusual circumstances surrounding getting back in the water at the Michener Aquatic Centre, the kids and coaches alike were just happy to be swimming again.

These days swimmers can’t shower at the pool, they can’t use the change rooms, coaches have to let them in and parents can’t watch. It’s all part of a new reality.

“It’s a big learning curve. Everybody was smiling yesterday, but it was definitely an adjustment,” she said.

“They were all very, very excited to be back.”

The club typically doesn’t do much training in the summer, with only a few of their higher level athletes working out in July and August. In most years, the annual Freeze or Fry meet on the first weekend in June at the Red Deer Recreation Centre outdoor pool is the wrap up for the majority of swimmers.

With COVID-19 wiping out most of the 2020 portion of the season, Bahler said everybody just wanted to find a way to get the group back together again.

Originally, that was going to be just six swimmers at a time, each with their own lane at the Michener Aquatic Centre. But with the new cohort rules, they were able to get two bigger groups together.

“We’ve actually been able to form a couple of cohorts within our club to allow for our kids to get back in the water and swim. The cohorting has been a saving grace for our club. I don’t know what it would have looked like without cohorts,” she said.

“It’s more just trying to get kids back in the water. I mean the training part is great, but it’s more the mental aspect for these kids. They lost their team and being able to be with them, we just want them to be able to get back together.”

Bahler noted that the extended break has been tough for the club and the kids, but credits club head coach Lucien Zucchi with keeping the kids motivated and prepared throughout the unprecedented times.

“As soon as pools were closed, within a couple of days he was reaching out to the kids and discussing how they could keep in shape and how they were feeling… all three of our coaches did an excellent job,” Bahler added.

She explained that until mid-August, they’ll invite swimmers to join practices on a week-to-week basis, with a two-week break in August so they can introduce more cohorts, before starting the fall season again in September.

For more information on the club and competitive swimming, check out

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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