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BENNETT: State swim format change not for best

Here we go again.

Instead of putting any blame on anyone, perhaps there is still time to make a wrong a right.

Last Thursday, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, which included a majority vote by the swimming coaches’ committee of seven members, agreed to change the state meet guidelines.

In essence, the planned two-day meet set for April 20-21 in Morgantown was nixed to just one day. That means no preliminary races and just a one-day timed finals.

Many coaches throughout the Mountain State are not in agreement whatsoever with the decision.

In fact, numerous coaches didn’t even know something like this was on the table.

When the news came out about the change, Parkersburg High School head swim coach Emily Martin was aghast at the situation to say the least.

Martin, who just started a petition at www.change.org/getfinalsback which already has nearly 1,300 signatures, has made a lot of sense to me in our recent conversations.

“Boys and girls swimming are two different sports so give them each their own day,” she said. “Do prelims in the morning and finals in the afternoon.”

The Big Red boss said she had a lengthy conversation with the WVSSAC on Monday and noted “it was very clear from that phone call that we were not going to get the format we’ve had the past several years where the kids all swim prelims on one day and then come back and swim finals the next day. That was a non-starter to them.”

This current situation for swimming made me think back to the regional cheer fiasco and conversations I had with Tug Valley head coach Tara Wolford and the now defunct state color map. She and many other cheer coaches tried to be proactive and make suggestions as far back as last September, but it was to no avail.

“People are going crazy because it’s a one day event,” admitted Bernie Dolan, the executive director of the WVSSAC.

Although I enjoy swimming in general, I’m obviously not a swim coach. However, I just don’t see how a state championship event which the WVSSAC originally scheduled for two days has to be done as it was announced last week.

“The reason is there are a lot of outbreaks in the schools right now. Therefore any multi-day events are problematic and in timed events you can have a timed final and still declare a champion,” Dolan noted. “If you have somebody gets an outbreak on day two, after day one, then the whole event gets shut down because kids in swim, like track, are in multi events. There were three girls in cheer who tested positive the day after the state cheer competition when they were with their own team.

“They didn’t even compete with anybody else, but in an invitational type tournament anybody they were around in all of their events would all have to be quarantined so therefore the event would be shut down on day two. It doesn’t make sense to have that exposure for the second day.”

Dolan additionally noted of the now one-day event the following.

“They’ve been asking, the directors and things like that, have been talking about a one-day tournament and I’ve been pushing for a two-day, but I flipped when our numbers continued to rise, knowing that if the outbreaks happen then we don’t get to finish the championships. In my mind it’s all about making sure the championship is getting in.

“I don’t want to go day one to a meet if I can help it and not be able to finish the meet.”

That’s the impetus for going to a one-day event, plus we had talked to Pennsylvania and they did a one-day event and it went well.”

I guess when it comes to this current situation I’m taking the side of coach Martin and their no-brainer of a proposal.

After hearing about the news last week and coupled with her conversation this week, Martin said “my counter to that after I went back to the coaches that I had been discussing this we mulled it over and we decided while far from a perfect situation, it’s a solution that would give us what we want, which is for these kids to be able to swim in prelims to qualify for the finals and give them the best atmosphere and the best structure to compete at a higher level that we could do the meets in one day each by giving the girls one day, morning and evening, and give the boys one day. The same way that wrestlers are going to get one day for each Class, A, AA and AAA. We are technically two different sports so I don’t think it’s fair for us to have to share a day if a day is all we are going to get. Give them each a day.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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