The 2012-13 school year is proving to be quite the year for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
It already passed the state-wide football playoff system that was overdue, and it answered the bell again Monday evening.
The MIAA took unprecedented action last Thursday when it canceled (not postponed) the sectional swim meets, which provided swimmers not already qualified for the state meet one last chance to do so.
The swimming community took to Twitter to plead its case for the MIAA to reinstate the sectional meets. Their pleas caught the attention of Olympic swimmers, who retweeted to show their support. The quest for #BringBackWesternMass earned the swimmers an unsanctioned meet beginning Monday and finishing today.
It was going to be a glorified exhibition. Those that had Western Massachusetts-qualifying times were able to compete, but without the chance of qualifying for states. That never changed, but the MIAA did the swimmers one better: Anyone that qualified for a sectional meet automatically qualified for states. For that they get a rowdy golf clap.
Many couldn’t believe a state athletic association could and would cancel a postseason meet. Others took a stand on the opposite side of the fence, saying "swim faster during the regular season." The latter also cited the fact that Western Mass. swimming is nothing like Western Mass. track and field.
I understand swimming is not like track and field in that the top track and field finishers at Western Mass. advance to states. That’s not the case in swimming, where athletes need to hit a pre-determined time to qualify for states. You can be the fastest swimmer at Western Mass. in any event, but if you don’t break the time, all you’ve won is first place. On the flip side, you can be the slowest in any event, but because you had a good day earlier in the year, you’re already guaranteed a spot at states. What other sport works that way? None I can think of.
Now, what I don’t understand is why these two sports are so drastically different in the way their postseasons are setup when the sports themselves aren’t nearly that different. Each is based on time. Each has individual events and relays. Each has a Western Mass. meet before the state meet. Why are the postseason progressions so different?
This fundamental difference placed the MIAA in a difficult position when Nemo wreaked havoc on Eastern Mass. It could rectify the problem by restructuring the swimming postseason to align with that of any other sport -- win and move on.
Having played in a sectional hockey championship with no hope of moving on to the state tournament because of a poor regular season record, I can relate. We didn’t win, but if we had, I can only imagine how angry we would have been that we couldn’t keep playing. That rule has since been changed, and now the sectional champ continues on.
If the top swimmers from each sectional meet were to advance like in track, the MIAA would have had no choice but to hold a mid-week meet. I understand pools of adequate size are tough to come by, but athletic directors were able to figure the whole event out in just a few days. What plan could the MIAA come up with with months of planning?
Hopefully this will show the MIAA that backup plans are possible for swimming. And yes, we are in New England, so it’s probably wise to have a contingency in place other than "cancel it."
As the swimmers showed, they don’t mind if parents aren’t allowed to come watch, they just want to swim. So, MIAA, why not do your due diligence in the future and make sure they will always have that option, especially for postseason events.
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On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalJosh