The Invisible Opponent: Swimming and diving competes in virtual meets
February 2, 2021
The race comes down to the wire: eight swimmers, four from Wayland, four from Weston, furiously swim, looking to beat the opposite team and take home the freestyle event. This year, a similar type of intensity will be gone. Due to COVID-19, the DCL has ruled that the safest way to conduct a swimming and diving season is to hold virtual meets, where teams compete in different locations and compare scores.
Since masks cannot be safely worn in pools, they are only required for people who are not directly participating in an event. Swimmers and divers distance themselves six feet away from each other on all occasions. For divers, there are hooks on the diving board to hang masks while competing.
“I feel that diving is a very COVID-19 safe sport, as is swimming,” senior girls swim and dive captain Hilla Almog said. “Chlorine kills COVID-19 so while we’re in the water it’s safe.”
Swimmers and divers, especially at the high school level, are used to competing with opposing teams in the same location. For many, the switch toward virtual meets is difficult to get used to.
“It’s hard to see the invisible opponent and to put your 105% in at meets is hard when you don’t have someone to try to beat,” senior boys swim and dive captain Armen Abrahamian said. “Our coaches do a great job of making inter-team competitions.”
Competitively, swimmers and divers are unable to compare their scores in the moment. With this, it is difficult to conclude if more effort is needed while competing, or not.
“We never know when the season may be shut down, so we treat every meet, and practice like it’s our last,” Almog said. “The team does a very good job at keeping its competitiveness, especially because we don’t want to lose our winning streak.”
“When swimming against others it’s easy to pace yourself against your biggest competitor, but now we’re unable to see how the other team is swimming,” Almog said. “In diving, [we used to be] able to see how the other team is diving and compare to how you should be doing to keep ahead of them, but we can’t see them anymore.”
Junior girls swim and dive athlete Phoebe Greenaway has found a way around the lack of an opportunity to pace.
“I have found that although you are not racing a swimmer from another team, you can still pace yourself and race against a teammate,” Greenaway said.
For the majority of the meet, divers are on the pool deck, waiting for their turn to continue competing. This year, they are having a challenging time looking to keep warm.
“We used to have a small hot tub to keep us warm because the pool deck can get very cold, but we don’t have that anymore,” Almog said. “Now we all bring multiple towels to keep warm.”
Scores are compared between coaches following the entire meet where they decide on a winner. This causes a significant delay in getting the results out to the athletes.
“I think it is pretty weird that we do not know if we won the meet or not until hours later through an email,” Greenaway said. “In past years, we would know before we left the pool whether we won or not.”
Although swimming and diving in this way is different, the athletes are delighted to be able to have a season at all. For Abrahamian, this is enough to garner motivation to compete at his highest level.
“Many other teams haven’t gotten the opportunity to swim this season, so we’re lucky in that regard,” Abrahamian said. “This makes us have fewer opponents to face, but makes each of those meets more serious as we only have a precious few.”
For all athletic teams competing at WHS, the social aspect of the sport has been severely limited or eliminated. Next year, Greenaway wants her senior season to look as normal as possible.
“I hope the meets can go back to normal so that we can have team dinners and just have good times again,” Greenaway said. “It would be sad if we had to have another season like this next year.”
This school year has looked different for all student-athletes, but the overwhelming message from coaches and captains has been one of gratitude and acceptance.
“While the atmosphere is definitely different, we’re doing our best with what we’ve got this year, and we’re all thankful for that,” Abrahamian said. “The most brutal part for me is not being able to cheer as loud as I can for my teammates.”