Swim programs preparing for new season

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Local swim programs are preparing for the start of an unusual fall season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on.

As the start of school draws nearer so does the resumption of high school sports, including swimming.

Both Picayune and Pearl River Central have swim programs that have seen their seasons delayed two weeks by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

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Head Coach Blake Rutherford said the original plan for his program was to start July 27 with returning swimmers to give them extra time to get back into shape.

However, with the delay, the plan is now to have tryouts on August 11 and then start practices following the conclusion of tryouts.

Rutherford said the only loss caused by the two-week postponement was the extra conditioning his seasoned veterans would’ve had before the start of the school year.

Because there will be more weeks between the start of practices and the first meet, which will be the Biloxi Invitational on August 29, Rutherford said he’ll now be able to bring all of his athletes to the meet instead of just having the veteran swimmers attend.

In order to be able to practice social distancing and follow the COVID-19 guidelines Rutherford said it’s likely he’ll only have 24 athletes on the roster.

This will allow for more spacing across the pool, and lower the amount of equipment the program will have to buy.

“The biggest thing is going to be being mindful of equipment. I’m going to have to use financial resources to buy things like gear bags, so that when I issue pool buoys or kickboards that we issue in every day practice I give it to them clean and they bring it home,” Rutherford said.

While there are still things that need to be worked out as far as what guidelines apply to certain types of meets, Rutherford said as long as there is a season of any type he’ll be happy.

“If opportunity is limited and we’re just doing eight dual meets that’s 100 times better than what spring sports got last year,” Rutherford said.


For Picayune’s Head Coach Rachael Rutherford, the plan had also been to have a period of time for returning swimmers to practice before the resumption of school.

Instead tryouts will take place August 10 through August 14 and then practices will begin.

Rachael Rutherford said she’d been hoping to greatly increase the number of athletes in her program after having 18 last year, but with the COVID-19 guidelines in place and the necessity of social distancing she said she’ll only take 24 athletes this season.  Rachael Rutherford said there would be a meeting for veteran swimmers and their parents on July 30, with another meeting including the entire team taking place on August 18 after tryouts conclude. A challenge for Picayune is that because they practice before school starts athletes go straight from the pool to school.

This means the changing rooms and bathrooms are used frequently as athletes change into their school attire, so the plan is to get sanitation supplies and clean the bathroom in between each use. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before the season starts as the coaches wait for more guidance from the MHSAA, but Rachael Rutherford said her program would continue to be flexible as more information comes out.

“We’re still all working on that. We’re following the district’s rules they set for us. It’s all a learning curve as we see what the world is about to be like,” Rachael Rutherford said.