Iowa swimming and diving athletes react to season ending amid COVID-19

The pandemic brought Iowa’s season to a close before the most important meet of the year.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa’s Hannah Burvill dives in at the start of the 100 yard freestyle preliminaries during the sixth session of the 2020 Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Burvill’s time of 48.65 put her in ninth place in the preliminaries.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Senior Hannah Burvill’s stellar career as a Hawkeye was set up for what could’ve been a storybook ending.

Burvill — who is arguably the most decorated women’s swimmer in school history — holds three individual school records, is top-three in Iowa history in three other solo races, and is part of the Hawkeyes’ fastest relay team ever in four out of the five relays.

The Pyrford, Great Britain, native was set to swim one final college race after learning that she had qualified for her third straight NCAA Championships on March 4. A little over a week later on March 12, just a week before the star senior was going to hop in the water for her final collegiate event, the season came to a screeching halt.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused NCAA championship events to be canceled, which included the Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

“Before practice, [Iowa head coach Marc Long] and I were talking about whether [NCAAs] were going to happen or not,” Burvill said. “There were rumors that it wasn’t going to happen, and I was like, ‘OK, well, at the rate this is going, it’s probably going to end up that way.’

“So, I prepared myself a little before [the announcement]. I remember talking to Kelsey [Drake] about it, and I kind of knew it was coming, sadly. But I think at the end of practice, when one of the conferences said that they were going to withdraw all teams from NCAAs, I realized, ‘Yeah it’s going to be canceled.’”

Although the senior was obviously saddened and disappointed to end her Hawkeye career in the midst of such a difficult situation, she was happy that she got to swim all but one race this season.

“I was extremely fortunate,” Burvill said. “Some sports haven’t really started yet. That’s really, really sad. It’s still sad not being able to finish your career properly, but in comparison to a lot of other sports it wasn’t as bad. I feel terrible for those sports that didn’t get to even really begin.”

RELATED: NCAA postseason events, Big Ten events canceled

The NCAA would later announce March 30 that a vote had been taken to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility. The NCAA also announced athletes in winter sports, like swimming, would not be granted another year of eligibility.

Burvill said that she was planning on trying to get to the 2020 Olympic Games, but now that they have been postponed, her future regarding them is uncertain.

The ending to her college career is one that she’d like to forget, but her four seasons for the Black and Gold were anything but forgettable.

“I want to thank everyone who had the involvement in me coming [to Iowa City],” Burvill said. “My family, my friends, the coaching staff, the coaches that I had at home, and the friends that I’ve made here. Every experience that I’ve had throughout college kind of made me the person that I am today, living on your own, doing things, doing life. I’ve had the best time here. I want to stay here and make my own life here.”

While Burvill’s career came to an end in an abrupt and unexpected way, sophomore Anze Fers Erzen — who was one of the NCAA qualifiers for the men’s team — will have two more years as a Hawkeye.

“This whole situation shocked everyone,” Fers Erzen said. “Especially for the seniors, I really feel bad for them, because, you know, me, I have two more chances. For the seniors, I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Fers Erzen was also eyeing this year’s Olympics, as well, but is looking at the postponement of the event in a positive way.

“I’m happy for myself that they were postponed,” Fers Erzen said. “It gives me one more year to train for them. I mean, of course I want to train hard for the Olympics, but realistically, I don’t think this summer I would’ve been able to make it.”

While he understands the frustration of athletes both nationally and worldwide, Long emphasized that these circumstances allow for a time to pause and evaluate.

“We sit around and try to score higher on the diving boards and get a faster time,” Long said. “We need to appreciate that we’re able to do that. But also respect that this is a big part of their life right now, so they’re training and preparing for things like that.

“It’s a combination of — it’s a huge part of their life that they committed to do things that, on the world scale right now, may seem trivial but are very important to them. We can all learn lessons to be appreciative of what’s important.”

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