Midway Aquatics separates from Laboratory Schools to form independent club

In+late+June%2C+Midway+Aquatics%2C+the+swim+club+previously+affiliated+with+the+Laboratory+Schools+for+both+boys+and+girls+teams%2C+disassociated+from+the+University+of+Chicago+and+the+Laboratory+Schools+to+form+a+new+independent+club%2C+M3A.%C2%A0

Midway staff

In late June, Midway Aquatics, the swim club previously affiliated with the Laboratory Schools for both boys and girls teams, disassociated from the University of Chicago and the Laboratory Schools to form a new independent club, M3A. 

Grace Holleb, Health and Wellness Editor

Walking out onto the Midway and assembling six feet apart with masks, some U-High swimmers begin to do a variety of burpees, pushups and other dryland activities. It was late July, but this wasn’t practice for school swimming, they’re with a club team. 

Because the IHSA has not authorized a return to school swimming teams due to the pandemic, practicing looks a little different this year. So does the team logo these swimmers represent. This logo won’t go away this fall, as these girls plan to continue training together while U-High girls swimming is suspended. 

In late June, Midway Aquatics, the swim club previously affiliated with the Laboratory Schools for both boys and girls teams, disassociated from the University of Chicago and the Laboratory Schools to form a new independent club, M3A. 

M3A will become a renter of Laboratory Schools facilities, Athletics Director David Ribbens said. Swim clubs throughout the country use university-owned facilities without being affiliated with the university, so this is somewhat of a standard.

“I do think in retrospect that this decision for them to be their own entity is really a more clear distinction between the two,” Mr. Ribbens said. 

Midway Aquatics started 15 years ago with the primary goal of improving high school girls and boys swimming teams, Mr. Ribbens said. He cited the program’s successes. 

“Over the past five years we’ve set all new school records in swimming,” he said. “It’s been a very good thing, and accomplished its goal.” 

When U-High closed indefinitely in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Midway Aquatics closed, too. No practices or meets were conducted during this time, and swimmers waited eagerly to get approval from the University of Chicago to get back in Lab’s pool in Sunny Gymnasium.

Due to the school closure and the swim season being suspended, all Midway Aquatics coaching staff, as university employees, were put on furlough in late May. 

With heightened anticipation to continue swim training, but no formal approval from the university materializing, Midway Aquatics made the decision to become an independent club. 

“Midway Aquatics had expressed interest in becoming their own program through USA Swimming and to become separate from the auspices of the Lab school,” Mr. Ribbens said. 

Midway Aquatics was a registered USA Swimming club by Kate Chronic, who is now the owner and head coach of M3A. Many of the same coaches will be on the staff of M3A as well.  

“The separation was done amicably,” Mr. Ribbens said. “It was an agreed upon understanding that that would benefit both of us better than being owned by the Lab school.” 

According to swimmer Susan Huang, a senior, being physically connected so long began to affect the team’s ethos. 

“A huge part of swimming is being able to communicate with your teammates,” Susan said, “and when we lost that, a lot of the team spirit and motivation to work out disappeared as well.”

A huge part of swimming is being able to communicate with your teammates and when we lost that, a lot of the team spirit and motivation to work out disappeared as well.”

— Susan Huang

Because being able to physically practice together is so important for swimmers like Susan, she thought that the decision to become an independent team was best. 

“The only way to be able to swim in person was to cut that tie,” Susan said. 

Right now, M3A has many of the same members as Midway Aquatics did. Because there is no affiliation to Lab, one hope the swimmers have is to gain more team members from other schools around the city. 

“We’re now swimming three days a week, and staying in specific places in the lane to stay safe,” swimmer Elizabeth Lin said. “Three other practices are dryland, so six total a week.”