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With no State Championships, Ma makes difficult decision to opt-out of junior season

Sally Ma focusing on club swimming instead of high school this season.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCCU/WICS/WRSP) - It's a strange year for high school athletes. While some have seen their seasons postponed to the spring, others competing in fall sports are doing so in a season that won't culminate in a State Final, forcing some to make a difficult decision.

Uni High swimmer Sally Ma opted to not compete with the Illineks this year, due in part to the State Tournament being canceled amidst the current pandemic.

"That was a pretty big part of my decision," said Ma. "I think having a big meet during at least some part of my season is really important to me."

Ma is a two-time State qualifier. Last year as a sophomore, she finished as the State runner-up in the 50 free. With no chance to compete for a State Championship in 2020, she's opted to focus on improving her technique, and compete with her club team, the Champaign County YMCA Heat.

"The consistency and training we've gotten over the summer, she felt better focusing on her swimming through club," said Will Barker, the director of competitive aquatics at the YMCA. "If (State) happens next season, she's going to be right back swimming for Uni.

While the State Title goal is on hold, Ma hopes to return to competing with Uni High next year as both teams hold a special place in her heart.

"Having that family-like team at high school, but then also finding it here with Heat, it's been pretty great too," Ma said.

"Kids have such a blast when they go to high school season, and it's something she's going to miss," added Barker.

"There's still a lot of confusion as to what will happen next year," said Ma. "As of now, I hope to swim with Uni High next year."