By Mike Zummo
It’s been a long road.
Mere days after the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships ended, everything shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, after a 10-month hiatus, swimmers returned to the pools as the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association opened winter low- and moderate-risk sports. Swimming is listed as low- and moderate-risk and is one of the few winter sports to get off the ground.
“All the coaches are very pleased to get going,” Valley Central coach and Section 9 boys’ swimming coordinator Scott Warner said. “They’re excited to get going and they’re grateful to the powers above them on all the work they’ve done. The kids are sitting back and excited and ready to go, too.”
But with cases rising, there will be quite a difference this year.
Only 12 teams will participate this winter, meaning for at least this season there will be new divisions and alignments. Each school will be given five competitions, just within their division. The schedule also has some open dates in the event schools want to participate in crossover meets.
“All the bigger schools are in, and some of the smaller schools are out,” Warner said. “Places that don’t have access to a facility. Rhinebeck used Bard College and the college has restrictions and isn’t letting them in. Others may not have kids of interest. Some places have different reasons on why they’re not going to participate.”
For his own team, at least, instead of having all his swimmers in the pool for a two-hour block, he said he will have one group in for an hour and another group in for an hour to limit close contacts.
“The entire team might not practice together because if you have a case where someone comes in and tests positive, that could mean your whole team is out,” Warner said. “Coaches are going to have to get creative in how they’re going to bring in and how many they’re going to bring in.”
The meets will be conducted in a virtual fashion.
For example, Valley Central will swim at their home pool and Pine Bush will swim at its home pool. The coaches will compare the finish times. They will be submitted, and the score will get tabulated by www.section9swim.com.
“Everything will be the same, except you’re the only team at the pool,” Warner said.
While it isn’t confirmed yet, Warner says Section 9 is working on having a culminating event at the end of the season. He said they’re eyeing Feb. 27 for it.
Like the dual meets, the “sectional meet” will be virtual, and everyone will swim at their own pool, and the meet will be scored when all the data comes into www.section9swim.com. For this season, Warner said the section will be open to all swimmers.
Diving will likely be reduced to six dives.
“The kids don’t have time to learn 11 dives,” Warner said. “They have to do six dives in a competition so you should have six dives to work with.”
Other differences include spectators not being allowed into the pools although districts and teams are working on ways to simulcast the meet so parents can watch online, but those details have not been worked out yet.
“It will bring a new avenue to the whole thing,” Warner said. “At least we’re back and we’re going. That’s the important thing.”