For a wave of swimmers across the country, coronavirus cancellations and postponements are forcing tough decisions about the futures of their athletic careers.
We caught up with Florida senior Savanna Faulconer, who saw her career come to an abrupt and unexpected end this spring when the NCAA canceled its championships meet and the Olympics (and U.S. Olympic Trials) were pushed back a year.
“My plan was for [U.S. Olympic] Trials to be my last meet,” Faulconer said. An Olympic Trials qualifier in 2016 as a high schooler, Faulconer had competed in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 breaststroke. This time around, she was qualified in both IMs after placing 10th in the 400 IM (4:44.72) at 2019 U.S. Nationals.
Faulconer said she was doing homework when she first saw the news story that the ACC was pulling out of NCAAs due to the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
“It was like ten minutes later the NCAA was canceled,” she said.
“It was so strange. It didn’t feel real for a long time. I went over to one of my friend’s houses and all the seniors were just so upset, crying. It was just a lot of unknown at the time.”
Faulconer eventually came to the decision that she’d stop competing this year, rather than spending another year chasing what she expected would be her last swim, at Olympic Trials. Faulconer was already planning to pursue a fifth year of undergraduate studies, adding an education minor to her microbiology major. She’d envisioned that fifth year as a chance to focus more on other areas of her life, including exploring options in either the job market or graduate studies.
The 21-year-old acknowledged the disappointment of missing out on the end of her senior season, but was quick to look on the bright side – without swimming, Faulconer says, she’s able to focus more on staying healthy, avoiding the virus and completing her classes through distance learning, rather than dealing with the stress of translating a training plan to the new life in quarantine.
Though the shock of the meet cancellations was overpowering at first, Faulconer has found important perspective:
“For me, swimming was never really about the end,” she said. “Looking back in a year or two years, I won’t think about how I didn’t get a last meet or a last big hurrah. It’s about the people you were with and the experiences that you made with your teammates. As a whole, swimming’s not about that last moment… it’s about what you did to get there.”
“For me, making NCAAs four years in a row and getting the opportunity to be there with my team was something that I’ll cherish more than getting that last swim.”