Clemens Community Pool1-2020
Clemens Community Pool has fallen silent again over the past few weeks after the swim program was able to get in a handful of workouts. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

It must’ve felt pretty good to be in the water. The returning swimmers could try to regain their past form while newcomers had an opportunity to see if this could be their sport. Meanwhile, Philomath High’s newest addition to its coaching lineup could have some fun while getting to know the athletes.

The voluntary preseason swim practices started Nov. 9 but were canceled midway through the second week with the governor’s increased restrictions amid growing COVID-19 infection rates.

The swim team could hold three practices per week and with 24 athletes participating, new coach Daniel Mikula split them up into two separate workouts.

This is the fourth in a series of four stories on
Philomath High’s Session 3 sports teams that
began practicing on Nov. 9. Monday—Boys
basketball; Tuesday—Girls basketball;
Wednesday—Wrestling; and today—Swimming).

“We’re running an hour for each of the sessions and kids were crazy excited to be back at it,” Mikula said. “I think they figured out pretty quickly that I like to have a lot of fun but they’re going to work this year.”

Mikula, 50, stressed the importance of the athletes striving to become the best version of themselves in and out of the water.

“I have expectations and I’m inviting them to have those same expectations for themselves,” he said.

Mikula comes to Oregon from Pennsylvania. He was also hired as the Clemens Community Pool’s director and teaches language arts at Philomath Academy.

As a new coach, Mikula didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the skill level of his athletes but he divided them up into the two groups and discovered a fortunate situation. Most of the swimmers in the first workout were at the novice level with mostly returning veterans in the second practice.

As such, Mikula had varying approaches to each session.

“What that means is I can spend a little bit more time with the first session doing stroke work and talking about technique and working on some of the basics,” he said, “whereas the second session, it’s a little bit more of their conditioning — and I don’t want to say prepping for a race — but we’re hitting it pretty hard in that second session.”

As far as keeping kids in line with restrictions, Mikula laughed while making a comparison between the 8-year-olds in his summer program and the high-schoolers.

“In the summer, my 8-year-olds were really good about keeping their distance but high school kids are really horrible at it,” he said, “so there are a lot of reminders about making sure that their masks are on and that they’re on correctly and that they’re distancing.”

But he said they figured out that they can have fun even with all of those rules in place.

“Now they’ve gotten a feel for it and realize that they can have that sense of community even with the restrictions,” Mikula said. “They show up super excited, it’s awesome.”

With swimming, the athletes obviously don’t wear masks in the actual pool — only when they’re not in the water.

“We’re going to follow it to the letter … it’s about safety and we have to make sure we’re doing the right things to keep our people safe,” Mikula said. “COVID is real so we have to respect that. As soon as they give us the go-ahead to get back in, we’ll do that whenever that might be.”

The Oregon School Activities Association is scheduled to meet Dec. 7 to presumably make a determination on how to handle upcoming seasons.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we get some positive news there but I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s hard to remain optimistic but I’m going to. I told the kids that we’ll try to have something.”

(Editor’s note: The Philomath News plans to publish a Sunday feature on Mikula and his arrival on campus to take over as swim coach and pool director).