Budgeted breath

Pool ventilation breaks, swimmers struggle to perform

Grace Wininger '23, Supervising Copy Editor

FREAKY FAST Hannah Didio ’25 races in the 50m freestyle at the Aug. 28 home meet. Didio practices six days a week for two hours a day, alongside the rest of the team. (Margot Murphy ’23)

She knew swimming wasn’t easy. But Elle Ottaway ’22 never thought it would be this hard just to breathe.
Splash. Gasp. In and out of the water, her arms propelling her forward and her lungs forcing her back. The air, thick and heavy, drags her down. Only a few months ago, this sort of thing came naturally – but now each inhale is its own battle.
“I don’t even know when it started,” Ottaway said. “But even after warm-up, everyone (finds) it so hard to breathe. We all have to go outside just to (get) some air.”
The problem isn’t new. In fact, it’s been going on for some time now, Athletic Director Brandon Wheeler said. One of the two dehumidification systems is older and needs some parts replaced.
“We’re dealing with a lot of other outside issues in the sense that right now, due to the pandemic, there’s a supply chain issue,” Wheeler said. “It’s understood that there’s a problem, and we’re doing everything we can, but because there is no student safety issue, there isn’t much more to do.”
Audrey MacGillis ’25, another member of the team, finds herself slowing down during practice and struggles to regain her speed even after breaks.
“Once we finish something and (take) a break and then go into another set, that’s when it hits,” MacGillis said. “Because you don’t have as much (air) as you would normally. We tire out easier.”
As difficult as it is to perform, Wheeler said it’s not a question of student safety, and that limits what the administration can do.
“Safety’s always going to be first,” Wheeler said. “I know it’s hot, and it feels humid. But there’s no issues with the chlorine in the air or anything like that. We’ve done our assessment, and everybody’s confident that students are (fine). It’s just uncomfortable for the moment.”
For the swimmers, just being in the pool feels reminiscent of a bad cold. The air is so thick for Ottaway that she can’t even take a full breath in.
“It’s like you have a really bad cold,” Ottaway said. “You feel like you’re wheezing, like you can’t fully get a deep breath, which is really hard on your muscles because they can’t fully recover.”
In the past, the swim team has looked out for themselves. McGillis said she remembered when the school didn’t provide soap in the locker rooms, so they had to go buy it themselves.
“People don’t really pay attention to us,” McGillis said. “Is anyone really going to listen?”