Gabe Castaño sits in his car in his hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania on March 27. It’s a sunny day out, and light streams through the car windows.
If March 27 went as planned, Castaño would not be in his car. He instead would be competing in the second day of the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming Championship.
Castaño said that it would have been “optimal,” to have the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming Championship and the subsequent Olympic Trials occur but knows it was out of his control.
“All we can do right now is just stay positive and sort of keep our minds in check,” Castaño said.
Castaño, a junior, is originally from Monterrey, Mexico, and would have been representing his home country at the trials. He was hoping to compete at the Olympic qualifiers with 12 of his Penn State teammates, including juniors Maddie Cooke and Hayden Harlow.
“I think this is a very uncertain situation,” Castaño said. “No one really knows what to do at this point because everything, all the facilities that we need in order to succeed in our sport, are for the most part closed.”
Because he has no access to a pool to stay in shape, Castaño has started creating his own dryland workout routines which he posts on his Instagram.
Castaño’s workouts include cardio, weights and core.
Similarly, Cooke is staying active, doing a variety of training and exercise to stay in shape, such as mountain biking and lifting, as she too does not have access to a pool or gym.
Cooke remarked that she has about 10 percent of what she had at school, and ordered a pull-up bar to add some variety into her routine.
“I think honestly the biggest adjustment is just not really having such a schedule,” Cooke said. “Now it’s just a big open gap in your day. You have your school and you have to get in a workout somewhere in there.”
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But all of this change comes with a bright spot: one more year of training.
Cooke said while the adjustment has been tough, she’s looking at everything with a silver lining, and is happy about having the extra year to train.
Castaño missed the fall season and did not compete in meets until January due to an injury he sustained.
He then decided to undergo heavy rehabilitation in preparation for the upcoming Olympics.
“I’m very fortunate,” Castaño said, “because I'm in a situation where [the postponement] actually a benefit for me.”
Castaño admitted that this time period away from the pool has been “relieving,” and he has been trying to keep a positive mindset during this time.
“But at the same time, I’m looking forward to the goals I have in mind, [and] it’s obviously very limiting,” Castaño said. “I can’t do what I need to do to get there, for the time being.”
Harlow, across the country in Bentonville, Arkansas, felt similarly.
Though it has taken some time to mentally adjust, Harlow said, he’s somewhat “relieved with the situation,” as it gives him more time to prepare for the Olympic Trials.
“I think pretty much every other athlete that’s going to be competing at the trials will say the same thing…,” Harlow said. “Being able to have more time, a whole year now, to reset and get ready both mentally and physically is kind of a good thing.”
Harlow, who was hoping to represent Team USA at the Olympic Trials, said he was expecting the postponement, but that it was still disappointing as he had been preparing for the qualifiers since last August, when he first made his trials cut for the Olympics.
“I think going into the past couple weeks not knowing if we were going to still compete at trials or not was kind of stressful, because being able to prepare for that big of a stage is really important,” he said.
Harlow said he feels fortunate that, unlike some of his teammates, he doesn’t have to decide if this will be his last year swimming, as he is a junior.
“I think honestly, that’s the only option I have, to be optimistic about it,” Harlow said.