A pair of summer fixtures in Fort Wayne were casualties of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020: the City Swimming and City Tennis championships.
The City Swim Meet has been contested since 1961, while City Tennis has existed for close to a century. After the virus forced their cancellation last year, they’re back this summer, and organizers are excited to once again put on competitions that give some of the best athletes in Fort Wayne an opportunity to compete for city bragging rights.
“We debated and mulled it over and talked and it just wasn’t feasible last year with everything going on and the uncertainty,” Jason Smith, manager of athletics and special events at Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, said of City Tennis. “So then we had a lot of people calling, even when there was still snow on the ground, asking if we were planning on having it this year.
“There’s definitely excitement.”
The Fort Wayne City Swim and Dive League held the City Dive Meet on July 17 and 18 and the overall crown went to the Blackhawk Swim and Dive Team.
The City Swim Meet is next on the agenda and that will take place from July 30 to Aug. 1, also at the Helen P. Brown Natatorium.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to be as safe, efficient and make this as fun for the kids as we can this year,” said Jason Glassley, one of the meet directors for City Swim along with his wife, Yardley Glassley. “It’s a little bit different for us, but it’s something we’re enjoying and we think it’ll be a fun weekend for the kids.”
Because of coronavirus restrictions, the City Swim Meet will look somewhat different this year than in the past. There will be no preliminaries in 2021, with the meet instead utilizing timed finals so that each swimmer only swims each event once rather than twice.
In order to have as few people in the Natatorium at one time as possible, the meet will have one age group compete at time. With five age groups (eight and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and 15 and over) competing, that means there will be one group going Friday, and then one each in the morning and the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. After each group, results will be read, awards given out and then the group will cleared from the Natatorium. There will be a maximum of 90 people allowed in the building per section, but the event will also be livestreamed on the Fort Wayne Swim and Dive Meet Facebook page.
“We’re still getting things in order, it’s a brand new format for us,” Glassley said. “We’re hoping very much to be back to our normal format for the 2022 meet.”
Each age group in the Swim Meet will have seven events apiece for boys and girls: a medley relay, a freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, individual medley and a freestyle relay.
City Tennis, by contrast with swimming, will not have any restrictions or changes from a normal year. Not only is it outside, but it already has something like the dynamic the Swim Meet is going for, with groups cycling in and out for different events.
The tennis competition will open its week of singles matches Monday, which will culminate in the finals of the men’s open division Aug. 2. There will not be a women’s open competition in singles this year because not enough participants signed up. Aug. 2 also kicks off the week of doubles matches, which runs through Aug. 9.
The entire City Tennis Championship will take place at Swinney Tennis Center. The competition includes championships divided by age groups as well as National Tennis Rating Program ratings.
Sign-ups for doubles are open until Monday at 5 p.m. To sign up, go to http://www.fortwayneparks.org/images/PDF/athletics/City_Tennis_Tournament_Flier.pdf.
Swimming and Tennis were both in the middle of dynastic runs when the competitions were canceled in 2020. As of 2019, Pine Valley Country Club had won the City Swim Meet five consecutive years.
In tennis, former IPFW player Andres Cobos had won the men’s open title five years in a row, defeating former Leo Lion and current Ball State Cardinal Eli Herran, who won a doubles state championship at Leo in 2018, in each of the last three events.
“We’re just excited to be able to have it again,” Smith said of City Tennis. “For the players to be able to play in it again, because a lot of them, a lot of them have played for numerous years and they miss it.”