by Melissa Martin
While COVID-19 has caused more than its fair share of disappointments and heartbreaks over the past 12 months, Brecksville native Hannah Bach said, for her, the virus has been anything but a roadblock.
In fact, the sophomore member of Ohio State University’s Women’s Swim and Dive Team admits that if not for COVID-19, it’s likely she and her teammates might not be standing where they are today – proudly atop the winner’s podium.
Not only did the Buckeye’s Women’s Swim and Dive team repeat as NCAA Big Ten champions in Minneapolis Feb. 27, but Bach also swam her way to her first individual Big Ten title that weekend. After setting a school record in the preliminaries in the 100 breaststroke, Bach broke her own record in the finals with a time of 58.29.
The team rounded out the weekend taking home three relay titles – with Bach on two of those relays – for the first time in 37 years.
Still, the path to this year’s winning season wasn’t as clear-cut as it seems, Bach said.
“When COVID hit, we were sent home from college last spring. Nothing felt normal,” the 2019 Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School graduate said. “The only thing that even came close to feeling normal for me was swimming, so that’s what I decided to cling to throughout quarantine.”
Bach made the Brecksville Rec Center her second home during those months, maintaining the same pool and gym schedules as if she were still training at college. She also kept in close contact with her coaches who frequently passed along new workouts aiming to improve her strength and endurance in the water.
“I consider myself so lucky that I had that kind of support,” she said, noting that many of her teammates weren’t as fortunate in that many gyms and pools nationwide remained closed last summer.
On the flipside, she discovered that putting in the hard work alone isn’t nearly as rewarding as sharing trials and tribulations with her teammates.
“The individual workouts were good, but I think what COVID taught us most is that what we really need to succeed in life are the people who bring out the best in us,” she said.
“For me, that will always be each other.”
Once the team headed back to Columbus for 5:30 a.m. practices and three-times-a-week workouts this past September, Bach said the setbacks were plenty. Not only was the team placed on a two-week quarantine after contact tracing revealed that some members had been exposed to COVID, but she herself went on to receive another month-long hiatus of her own after falsely testing positive for the virus in November.
Despite the hurdles, Bach said her team had all it needed to fuel their fire for competition season, which finally kicked off in a far shorter format than usual this past January.
“We’re not a time-driven, points-driven team,” she said. “What makes us so successful is that we focus on our collective goals and we trust each other wholeheartedly both in and out of the pool. The last thing we’re going to do is let each other down.”
Bach said she was looking forward to rallying her teammates once again at the end of March for the 2021 NCAA Championships in Greensboro, N.C. where they were set to compete against the nation’s top female college swimmers. In June, she heads to Omaha where she will compete in the 2021 Olympic trials after earning a qualifying time her freshman year. ∞