The 2021-22 Frontier League boys swimming season is seeking some normalcy after competing last season under unusual circumstances.
Last season’s meets were conducted mostly virtually with teams swimming in their own home pools with the results being tabulated by combining the two sessions. Lowville coach Eric Virkler said that the swimmers felt odd competing virtually.
“It was not enjoyable for the kids,” Virkler said. “For a swimmer, they usually get their competitive juices flowing when they have other teams there.”
As of right now, there are plans to have a normal calendar much like girls swimming had in the fall. The Frontier League was able to navigate a full league schedule and conducted its league, sectional and state meets without trouble.
“We’re looking forward to having a normal calendar with the Frontier League meet and sectionals,” Virkler said.
Watertown had most of the abbreviated season wiped out due to a month-long hold put on the school’s sports programs. Watertown had one in-person meet, but it was also the Cyclones’ only one.
“We got one practice in and then we were told that sports were put on hold for 30 days,” Watertown coach Tom Graban said.
This year’s girls Frontier League tournament at Watertown High School did not have any fans in attendance and neither did the Section 3 and state meets. However, most schools like Lowville are planning to have fans for their meets. All the schools that are allowing fans will require spectators to wear mask and focus on socially distancing. Despite the restrictions, swimmers will be glad to have fans cheering them on again.
“I know it stinks for away fans, but at least we’ll have some spectators and have a real meet feel with some crowd noise,” Graban said.
According to Virkler, Lowville plans on having four spectators per athlete and away fans can bring two per athlete. Schools like Carthage and Indian River will have no limit on home and away spectators while South Jefferson isn’t allowing away fans to meets.
One good thing that’s come out of limited spectators, is schools learning to livestream meets. Coaches are hoping that these streams will continue even when the pandemic ends.
“I talked to our athletic director (George Emmerich) and our tech guy and told them they need to keep this forever even when it’s over,” Graban said. “I’ve got kids that have grandparents in Florida, relatives that are in the military and parents that work, so this is great for them.”
South Jefferson and Watertown are expected to be two of the better teams in the league this season. The Spartans are hoping to repeat the success of the 2019 season, where they won the league title and beat the Cyclones for the first time in a league meet in 11 years.
Watertown has top swimmers like Xander Gaige and Zach Kilburn that have made strides in the offseason. The duo was hounding Graban for ways to stay sharp.
“I’ve been coaching a long time and they’ve put in their work on their own,” Graban said. “They keep asking me for workouts, so I send them stuff to do.”