By Mike Zummo
The Pine Bush boys’ swim team was the first team at Pine Bush to get going in the 2020-21 school year.
That gave the swimmers the opportunity to blaze the trail for the sports that will follow them. They took the responsibility seriously and did well with it.
“I think that’s from just us telling them to make sure we did it correctly,” Pine Bush coach John Barth said. “Everybody’s watching, but it’s been a long time since there was a sport going on.”
Barth, a longtime swimming coach in the district, is in his first year as coach of the boys’ team. He’s been the coach of the girls’ team, which hasn’t lost a meet since 2017.
The team’s numbers are down to 16 this season, partially because the Pine Bush Central School District isn’t allowing the team to take any new middle school students for the winter season. The only middle schoolers able to participate this season are ones that were on the team last year.
“They’re doing as well as can be expected,” Barth said.
When the Bushmen got into the pool for the first time, they found tons of changes. Many had not stepped foot in the water since last season, 10 months prior, and in their third week – which also counts two snow days – only had nine swim practices and three meets.
“We’ve had to start off easier than in a normal year,” Barth said. “We did less yardage and more drills to get our muscle memory back.”
The Bushmen are improving each day, even though they had to compete in a meet on the sixth day.
That was Jan. 27 when the Bushmen pulled out a one-point victory over Warwick.
The Bushmen have been led by junior Charles Hufcut, who has the 11th best time in the 200-yard freestyle and freshman Tomek Oakes, who has the 13th best time in Section 9 in the 200-yard individual medley.
Freshman Bryce Sloley came back to the team and competed for the first time on Feb. 3, placing second in the 100-yard butterfly against Valley Central.
“The kid went back to school, got his sixth practice in and then the school went remote for a week and a half,” Barth said.
Practice and the meets seem strange. The swimmers are more spread out amongst the pool than they are used to being and they don’t have their opponents in the pool with them during meets. The swimmers are also in the bleachers spaced out and not on the side deck.
They also don’t have the immediacy of knowing the results of the meet because not everyone is swimming at the same time.
Barth said during the Bushmen’s virtual meet against Washingtonville, he didn’t know the results until he got home.
Without sectionals and states, the Bushmen have one goal.
“We’re going to figure out where we’re starting from and we’ll all be better than they were at the beginning,” Barth said.