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After eight months of no competition... it finally happened... a swim meet! Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all competition was ceased for several months. Only recently did USA Swimming and the NCAA allow for competition to resume.

Even though swimming is not currently “in season” due to COVID-19, Loyola is currently allowing a very small amount of athletes to train on campus this semester. Typically we would be in the midst of our training season and preparing for a mid-season meet. We're not able to compete against other schools or teams right now due to strict social distancing guidelines. Our season has been suspended until the spring semester, so our coach decided to have a sort of inner-squad meet this weekend.

I was so excited when I woke up this morning knowing that I would finally be able to get up on the starting block and race. I was a little nervous too. It had been so long since I had competed. I was nervous that my times wouldn't be great. However, I put on my new team suit and headed to the pool at 6:30 in the morning with my blue Gatorade and ibuprofen. I knew I would probably need some relief after racing.

We had a hard week of training this week. After eight swim workouts and three weightlifting workouts, my legs were shot. I was tired mentally and physically. But the excitement that I felt to be back in the pool, racing, overshadowed the pain I felt in my body.

When I got on the block and took off for my event, the 500 freestyle, it was just two boys and me. Instead of our typical 90 person squad, only 15-20 of us were cleared to train this semester. None of my distance girls were cleared so it has been just the boys and me doing the distance sets.

Sigh.

So I had to race with the boys today. No big deal, right? Well, one of these boys beat me by two minutes... but you know... I didn’t care! I couldn't see him crushing me so I felt great!

I was actually surprised at how well I did in my swim. Obviously, a swimmer wants the best time every time they swim. I knew that wouldn't happen after eight months of interrupted training, but I was hoping that I wouldn't be too slow. I was only 10 seconds off of my best time in the 500 freestyle. Not bad for a “mid-season” swim. When I got out of the pool my coach said that I was "beet red" and that my lactic acid was likely very high in my legs from racing.

It was so much fun to be back on the pool deck with some of my teammates racing. It almost felt like a “normal” Saturday morning. We all were wearing masks and social distancing, as usual, but there was still the same excitement and anticipation in the air that was there during a real swim meet. I am ready to get back in the pool for another hard week of training. Hopefully, soon we can be together as an entire team doing what we love.

McClain Hermes is a Paralympian and World Champion who attends Loyola University Maryland. She has turned her disability of being legally blind into her ability in the pool. She holds over 20 American Records and has numerous international medals. At the age of 15, she was the youngest member of the 2016 USA Paralympic Team in Rio and competed in three swimming events. McClain competed in the 2017 Paralympic World Championship where she earned a gold medal and was named World Champion in the 400 Freestyle. She also earned two silver medals and two bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships. I’m 2018 and 2019 she won several more medals at the Pan Pacific Championships and span American Games. Her goal is to win a medal at the Paralympic Games. She is currently training for a chance to compete for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. McClain has decided to continue her academic and athletic career at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. She is currently a sophomore at Loyola studying Communications with a focus in journalism.
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