Girls swimming and diving: Sectional meets will serve as a mythical state final
The end of the girls swimming and diving season is near, and while there is no state meet, there will be ways to compare the swimmers after the Oct. 24 sectionals.
"We're going to gather all the sectional results and score it like Swimming World magazine for a mythical national championship," said Highland Park coach Tim Sirois, president of Illinois Swimming & Diving Association. He said there will be 16-place scoring in individual events since there are no relays at the sectional meets.
All 16 of those swimmers will receive all-state certificates, which is a departure from the top-12 rankings ISDA does every other year for its all-state team. The top three teams also get plaques.
According to the Illinois High School Association's Kraig Garber, who oversees girls swimming, "our board has not approved for virtual types of contests."
Evanston coach Kevin Auger keeps top times during the year at WildkitAquatics.com, and "after sectionals is over, I have a program that puts them together and shows who the winner would be. So that would be a kind of state championship, per se."
Are these scoring processes a reasonable alternative to the lack of a state meet?
"I think it's a good compromise," said Neuqua Valley senior Megan Ciezczak, whose team will participate in the Metea Valley sectional. "It motivates us and gives us something to look forward to."
Added her senior teammate Tiffanie Ruan: "The fact we're able to kind of have a state meet, it boosted my morale. I was struggling for something to work for. Having that added another layer to work harder and see how it would have played out."
St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney, whose team will host its own sectional, noted the value of the ISDA approach is "something to keep people thinking and being engaged."
Schaumburg coach Tim O'Grady said it's hard to say the results are a state meet. Racing next to someone is different from racing someone at the same time in different pools, he said.
"Not to say those rankings aren't fun," said O'Grady, whose team will participate in the Elk Grove sectional. "I think they'd like to see how they stack up with the other girls around the state."
Schaumburg senior Andrea Torres will see the end of her high school career at the Elk Grove sectional.
"I am disappointed there is no state, (because) it's one of my favorite parts of the season," Torres said. "It's wonderful to be surrounded by great swimmers, but I understand it's not possible."
Excitement for sectionals
Don't get the impression teams won't be taking the sectionals seriously. Far from it.
"In the beginning when the season started, it was hard to comprehend we weren't going to have a state meet," Neuqua Valley's Ciezczak said. "But my teammates and coaches have helped me realize just because there isn't one, we can go fast and throw down at the end of the year."
Her coach, Jason Niforatos, whose club was one of the favorites to win the team title in a normal season, said the sectional will be different.
"They're going to walk out and see no fans, and very limited coaches on deck," he said. "How can we as a team overcome that, and I put it on my seniors and coaching staff. We want our girls (thinking), 'This is your last hurrah. Do you want to come in and thrive in spite of the restrictions and lack of fans?' "
Coordination of the meets was crucial, considering the IHSA didn't decide to have them until mid-September.
Elk Grove athletic director Jackie Randall said she didn't know her school would host a sectional until that time, so she's been hard at work with coach Dave Toler and others to coordinate the event.
"It's going to be like a cheer competition, we're going to use classrooms," she said. "We'll have a bullpen for each heat. One heat at a time will be in the pool, they will have time to warm up, race, and cool down and then the next heat will be in the bullpen."
The school public address system will be used to notify teams of the upcoming heats, and the meet will be streamed through the classrooms on Vimeo so swimmers can cheer on their teammates. Parents can also watch the meet remotely through that link.