MIAA swimming ready for virtual season

  • Turners Falls’ Jade Tyler competes in the 500-yard freestyle during the 2019 season. All swim meets in Western Mass. will be contested virtually this winter. Staff FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/7/2021 6:08:55 PM
Modified: 1/7/2021 6:08:43 PM

Get ready for virtual swim meets this winter in Western Massachusetts. 

We’re just a few days away from the swim season beginning at Turners Falls High School, the lone Recorder area school that offers the sport. The sport held a conference call on Tuesday between coaches and league officials clarifying how a season will be held safely.

So what does a virtual swim season look like? For starters, there won’t be any in-person meets. When Turners and Holyoke face off against each other, Turners will swim at its own pool and Holyoke will swim at its own pool. Officials and timers will be on hand at each pool to keep official results, and when finished, teams will send those results to each other and the league, where the winning team is determined.

That’ll be a change for athletes, who will have to adjust to not physically seeing their competitors next to them in the pool. They’ll have to gauge when to kick it into another gear or when they can coast on their own, with their opponent possibly swimming in a pool 50 miles away.

If the meet is scheduled, for say, Tuesday at 4 p.m., then each team has 24 hours to complete their virtual race and send in the results. This is done to provide a wider window for schools who share pools, as they aren’t allowed in at the same time. Ideally, the two teams competing against each other will swim on the same day.

“A major point we discussed was the idea that swimming is a time sport,” Turners Falls swimming coach Colin Machat said. “It’s also a competitive sport and we are swimming competitively, but the main objective is to have some sort of season for the kids. We want to give them some sort of normalcy and rather than being super competitive about it, we wanted to give them some way to get out with their friends and a way to swim.”

As with all MIAA events this winter, all coaches, officials and timers will be required to wear a mask at all times, while swimmers are required to wear a mask when they are not competing.

Traditionally, three officials are preferred at each race, but coaches at Tuesday’s meeting that at some meets, just one or two officials will be required. There will also be two official timers for each lane of the race, with both officials and timers having to be COVID-19 tested before helping with the meet.

Having extra timers is necessary to ensure accurate results when racers aren’t actively competing against each other.

The MIAA listed its guidelines for spectators, with only two fans allowed for each swimmer. Each pool is allowed to have up to 40 percent of its capacity, and it’s up to each individual school if they want to allow spectators. Turners Falls Athletic Director Adam Graves said there won’t be fans allowed at his school this season, same for basketball.

The MIAA ruled out all championship meets, so there won’t be any sectional or statewide competitions. Still, the state will create cut times for end of year awards, with times being used to nominate swimmers.

“We wanted to give all the kids, the seniors in particular, who are looking to get into college and impress coaches with their times, we wanted them to have that chance to do it so they can say they would have qualified for specific tournaments if we they were taking place,” Machat said.

Practice begins Monday for Turners Falls swimmers and the rest of area schools and sports. The first set of swim meets are slated for Jan. 25.

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