WESTFIELD -- There were heats, officials, cheering swimmers, a working scoreboard and even medals.
It may not have been an official MIAA meet, but Monday's girls' Western Massachusetts swim meet at Westfield High School sure felt like the real thing. It didn't matter to the swimmers that their times wouldn't officially count toward qualifying for states, they were just happy to get a chance to swim.
"It's my first time swimming high school and my first Western Mass., so it's a big deal to me," Hoosac's Emma Whitney said. "We were all kind of bummed when we found out it was canceled. It's a big deal that it's back."
Once the MIAA decided to cancel the official sectional meets due to the blizzard that hit the state on Friday and Saturday, athletes were disappointed they wouldn't get a chance to swim the meet. Then groups of administrators and coaches got together to figure something out.
The result was Monday's unofficial meet. Since it was not an MIAA sanctioned event, none of the times counted for seeds heading into this weekend's state meet. None of that seemed to matter, however. What mattered was Western Mass. swimmers got a chance to swim against each other.
"It means a lot to the kids. The western sectionals, it's virtually the championship meet for Western Mass.," Wahconah coach Dave Lussier said. "It's a way of showcasing all the talented swimmers from our county and figuring out how me measure up with the swimming powerhouses."
Minnechaug athletic director Mike Roy was the main reason the unofficial meets got started. After seeing the enthusiasm from the swimmers and all the sportsmanship on display, it's a decision he was happy with.
"Honestly, it makes the last three days worth it," Roy said. "The work that had gone into this has been so worth it.
"The meet itself was set up with seed times and such, but we had people chipping in to get the facility ready, getting the time system ready. Just a lot of hands in the fire to make it come together."
Swimmers started coming together Thursday night on social media following the decision to cancel the event. Coaches and athletic directors began working to put something together for the athletes.
"It just shows all swimmers really stick together," Hoosac's Emma Whitney said. "Even though we're not on the same team, we're all like one big family. Taking this away, there were a lot of people who wanted it back."
Amherst was the only school not to attend the unofficial meet.
The meet wasn't held in normal fashion. Being held at a high school made it difficult to accommodate everyone. No spectators were allowed into the meet, and the only swimmers allowed in the pool area were the ones preparing for the next event.
That didn't take away from the overall feel of it, however.
"I got to see people that I swam with before," Hoosac's Michaella Vecchiarelli said. "As a junior, I definitely wanted to have this opportunity. It's a different level of competition. Even though this meet doesn't count, with all the teams here and all the top seeds, it really lets you know where you are for states."