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Club sport athletes reflect on season, COVID-19 restrictions

| Thursday, March 4, 2021

In addition to its Division I athletics programs, Notre Dame is home to over 30 club sports teams. Normally, these teams travel across the country competing against other schools in shows, meets, races and tournaments. But due to the University’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, there have been no competitions this academic year.

“There is little that compares to the pride, joy and pure adrenaline we feel when we take the ice to represent Notre Dame on a national level,” said Meghan Allman, junior co-president of the Notre Dame Figure Skating Club. “We miss this opportunity every day.” 

Allman’s words reflect the sentiments of Club Sport athletes across campus, including Notre Dame Triathlon Club vice president Quin Gallagher. 

“The biggest change … has been the lack of competitions,” Gallagher said. “While we enjoy maintaining our fitness and the challenge triathlon provides, races are really the most exciting moments where you can see all of your hard work come to fruition.”

In years past, Gallagher’s team competed in races as far away as Arizona and Alabama. He fondly remembers the “truly unbeatable experience” of traveling with his teammates.

In a “normal year” around this time, the team would be preparing to compete in Nationals against thousands of other collegiate triathletes.

“Without races, it has been tougher to stay motivated,” Gallagher said. “But thankfully we have a great group of teammates that has continued to push in anticipation of the day we can next compete.

This year, the team is able to practice in smaller groups called pods. The facilities they swim, bike and run in are now harder to access due to RecSports’ COVID-19 reservation policies

But Gallagher feels this time of global uncertainty has strengthened the bonds between him and his teammates.

“There’s always a unique solidarity that comes out of mutually-shared hardship,” he said. 

As they await the return of regular competitions, the Triathlon Club plans to organize competitions amongst each other to give themselves “some additional motivation.”

Like Gallagher, Allman and the Notre Dame figure skating teams look forward to competing again. In the past, the synchronized skating team competed in five competitions and the intercollegiate team competed in three. 

As the fall semester drew to a close, Allman’s team was optimistic the University and the U.S. Figure Skating Association would lift restrictions and spring competitions would resume.

“We had initially planned to have both our synchronized skating team and our intercollegiate team compete a few times throughout the spring semester, and we were looking forward to showcasing our programs at those events,” senior co-president Elizabeth Allgaier said.

Instead, the intercollegiate team will prepare to participate in a virtual competition this semester. 

“Before COVID-19, our synchronized skating team practiced three times a week on the ice and our intercollegiate team had two on-ice practices a week,” Allman said. “We also had weekly off-ice workouts and a combined on-ice skills practice.”

Now, at the Compton Family Ice Arena, the synchronized team practices together once a week while the intercollegiate team practices twice a week. Allgaier said the team has been fortunate to continue practicing during this time.

“Skating together during practices has helped us to have a bit of a sense of normalcy during a chaotic year,” she said. “We all appreciate the time we can spend together on the ice.”

Other groups, like the women’s Water Polo team, have had to make more dramatic changes to their practices.

COVID has changed a lot for us,” senior captain Julia Zimlich said. “Because we cannot wear masks in the water, we are not allowed to do any kind of contact, which is typically a huge part of the game of water polo.”

Zimlich’s team, which used to practice together four times a week, is now only able to practice twice a week and, like Triathlon Club, only in smaller pods.

Zimlich explained that in years past, team bonding activities have been an integral part of water polo. But this year, due to restrictions on gathering sizes, team members have only been able to do activities within their practice pods.

“The practice pods and lack of team bonding activities have definitely made it harder for the freshmen to feel like part of the team and to bond with each other,” Zimlich said. 

Emily Moll, senior co-captain of the Notre Dame Equestrian Club, expressed similar sentiments.

“We usually all know each other on the team, but this year, I feel like I haven’t met any of the new members,” she said. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, Moll’s club has been unable to ride horses and practice at their barn in Niles, Michigan — located 15 minutes from campus — due to the University’s travel ban on student activities.

“We have resorted to doing some equestrian yoga sessions on campus and some virtual meetings,” Moll said. “I completely understand why the University is uncomfortable with letting students travel off-campus for events, but I really wish we could at least practice.”

In years past, every rider would attend at least one practice weekly, and the competing members — who represented Notre Dame at competitions against schools across Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa — rode at additional captain’s practices.

Last year, the competition team won the coveted title of High Point Team in the Region for the first time. However, their post-season competitions were canceled after the onset of the pandemic. 

“I definitely miss the team environment, and I miss just riding the horses,” Moll said.

She added that she is excited to at least spend some time with her teammates before graduation and hopes to leave the team “in good hands.”

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