Massachusetts High Schools Take Step Toward Virtual Meets After MIAA Meeting

Photo Courtesy: Danny Whirlow

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) took a step toward shifting high school meets to virtual competition by approving a measure to allow virtual meets.

The move is a preliminary decision by the MIAA Swimming Committee, which met Thursday and details of which were reported by the Boston Herald. The proposal to allow virtual meets passed the committee unanimously and is subject to approval by the MIAA Board of Directors later this month.

The provision doesn’t mandate anything but leaves open the possibility that if schools can’t compete in traditional ways, they can establish virtual meets.

“Every town is different in terms of their board of health and how many people can get into the pool,” Peter Foley, a long-time sectional meet director, told the Herald. “I noticed that some of the midwestern states have already started using it.”

The Swimming Committee recommended certain provisions for virtual meets, such as holding each half of the meet on the same day or separated by no more than one day. It also reinforced the need for strong communication between the schools undertaking virtual meets. The MIAA’s vote in August that allowed the high school season to progress during the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated postseason meets at the sectional and state level, so qualifying standards are not an issue. But times can be used for All-America and other award considerations.

Virtual meets have grown in popularity, given the spatial challenges of cramming two sets of swimmers onto the same pool deck for a traditional dual meet. A virtual meet typically involves both teams swimming under race conditions (timing, officials, etc.) at their home pools and submitting times (manually or automatically) for scoring.

USA Swimming this summer introduced its Virtual Meet Simulator that, at no additional costs, allows times to be inputted from meet management software or manually. Accompanying that tool was a lifting by USA Swimming of the provision that all of the times in its database originate from meets sanctioned by USA Swimming or its Local Swimming Committees (LSCs). That permits times from unsanctioned (e.g. high school) meets to be threaded into the system. Numerous third-party systems or apps allow similar scoring for virtual meets.

In areas where the main impediment to a competitive season caused by the coronavirus is the physical proximity of bodies due to health restrictions, virtual meets could become a potent tool. The MIAA, by its vote, is availing itself of the possibility to use that resources.

“It will reduce travel so that will cut down expenses,” Xavieran Brothers High School athletic director Ted Currle told the Herald. “That’s important now, since we would need more buses for a meet due to the social distancing. In some places, there might be restrictions on how many people you can have in the pool.”

Read more about the meeting in the Boston Herald.

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