Swimmers prepare for a shortened season

By Mike Zummo
Posted 1/27/21

Boys swimming was one of the last sports to complete its season before sports were shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.This week, 10 months after the shutdown, area athletes from Pine Bush and Valley …

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Swimmers prepare for a shortened season

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Boys swimming was one of the last sports to complete its season before sports were shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, 10 months after the shutdown, area athletes from Pine Bush and Valley Central swam competitively for the first time in what’s going to be an abbreviated season

The section was broken up into two divisions this year and the Bushmen and Vikings will compete in Division II. Each team will swim five dual meets virtually to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and results will be tabulated after the fact by www.section9swim.com.

Valley Central comes in off a 2020-21 season that saw them finish fourth in both Section 9 and the OCIAA and ran a 10-3 dual meet record last season.

Despite losing two key swimmers in Paul Almeida and Chris Petillo, and diver Dan Harrington, who finished 29th at last year’s state meet.

“This will be one of the hardest years I’ve had to coach in over 30 years,” Valley Central coach Scott Warner said.

The Vikings’ attempt to win their division will be led by senior Sean Zupko, who finished 16th in the state in the 500-yard freestyle and 53rd in the state in the 100-yard backstroke.

Also returning for the Vikings are Kellen Dickman, Luke Roberts, Jacob Smith, Nick Suchy and Nate Walker.

Without competitors in the pool with them, providing the excitement and the ability to see the competition, the swimmers will have to look within themselves for that extra gear.

“To be competitive in this new time of COVID, we need to teach the athletes more self-mental racing strategies,” Warner said.
The Bushmen enter the season losing diver Jordan Vazquez, who finished 32nd at the state championships. The Bushmen finished eighth at last year’s Section 9 championships and fifth at the OCIAA championships. Returning are Tomek Oates, Bryce Sloley, Charles Hufcut, Andrew Donaldson, and Kaeden Fisher.

This year, even more important for the Bushmen is proving their sport can be conducted in a safe and healthy environment.
“We are glad to finally be back in the pool,” said Pine Bush coach John Barth, who took over the boys’ program from Kevin Blackwell. “We hope to give our athletes an opportunity to train and compete in a sport that they enjoy and give them some normalcy in their school life.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also has strict protocols that need to be followed in the pool. The swimmers come straight into the pool area for the workout and the entire place must be cleaned after it’s over.

“It’s very time-consuming and all involved,” Warner said. “It’s not as easy as people think.”

The season is expected to culminate in a virtual sectional meet on Feb. 27.

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