The Mid-American Conference (MAC) has opted to move its 2021 Conference Championships back until April, after the NCAA Championships.
The move came for a variety of reasons relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Because of COVID-19, the MAC men’s and women’s swimming & diving competition won’t begin until November 5, and moving back the conference championships by two months (the men’s meet will be April 8-10, the women’s April 15-17) will give the athletes more time to prepare.
Beyond that, a key consideration made in the move was the fact that the conference championships are the last meet of the season for the majority of swimmers, with only a handful qualifying for NCAAs. The opportunities will still be there for athletes looking to make Nationals, says Akron women’s head coach Brian Peresie, but due to the pandemic, a “last chance” style meet might be more conducive to fast swimming this season.
“Some might argue the conference championship environment would be a better atmosphere to post those (NCAA-qualifying) times,” Peresie told SwimSwam. “I agree if this was pre-COVID. Post COVID, it might be better having a competitive prelim/final meet with one or two other teams. Social distancing will be easier to achieve and given there are only so many lanes in a facility, warm up and warm down options will be better.”
There’s also the slight possibility that moving the meet back by two months could mean that larger gatherings are allowed at the conference meet.
“In April there could be less facility limitations and larger gatherings might be allowed,” said Peresie. “Obviously there is no guarantee, but the chances seem better in April rather than February. In the MAC we typically have over 200 participants, coaches, and support staff on deck. This does not include the facility staff, lifeguards, timers, officials, etc.
“Our hope is that the extra time will perhaps be just enough to contest our championships with less logistical challenges than we have now and could possibly still have in February.
“We have a plan that takes into consideration many variables and a schedule that gives a greater chance to compete in the ways we have in the past. Nothing is perfect and we will be ready to pivot and adjust if we must. But now there is a clear vision for the future and we will focus on what we can control.”