BOULDER — In a normal year, a dual between the Fairview and Fossil Ridge girls swim and dive teams would be a big deal, a competition between two of Colorado’s most consistently excellent programs and a raucous environment.
Well, it’s still a big deal. But the environment is quite different this time around.
The two teams began their meet, which will be held virtually and span the course of an entire week, on Tuesday. The Fairview swim team — just the Knights — met at South Boulder Recreation Center to swim their races in the pool. The diving competition will take place remotely on Friday and Fossil Ridge will swim their races at their home pool on Saturday. All of the results will then be given to a third party, who will score the meet based on the teams’ times and finishes.
In fact, the times from Fairview’s meet were not available so as not to provide Fossil Ridge with any kind of prior knowledge of target marks.
It’s a strange new system adapted to keep cohorts of student-athletes at different schools from intermingling during the global pandemic and it’s certainly not an ideal option compared to competing amidst the energy of a full pool of screaming swimmers, coaches and fans.
But if that’s what it takes for seniors like Fairview’s Joelle Haensly to have a season, they’re happy to do it.
“The virtual meets are definitely weird,” Haensly said. “This is our second one and we’re still kind of getting used to it. I think at this point, though, people are just excited to have the opportunity to race. We’re just doing what we can with what we have. We as teammates are just happy to be together so we just try a little extra hard to keep each other pumped up.”
At the Class 5A state meet last season, Fairview took home the team championship and Fossil Ridge was fourth. So every year when they two teams meet during the regular season, it’s an exciting preview of many top head-to-head matchups that likely will play a role in determining the state championship.
While some of that excitement is lost under the virtual format, Fairview head coach Francoise Bentley said she does believe there might be advantages such as getting more swimmers opportunities with only one team at a given site and teaching mental focus.
“It took a lot of work to create the system and it almost feels like we were a water polo team or a basketball team drawing up plays because you have to make sure that your athletes are socially distanced, that they’re masked right before they get in the pool, right when they get out, all this stuff,” Bentley said. “We also have to mind our officials and our timers and respect their space. So there’s a lot that goes into it but the girls have really stepped up and been respectful.
“From a swimming standpoint, it’s teaching the girls to race for themselves because they have no carrots other than that. I think one of the biggest growths that will come out of this entire experience is that they get few chances to race so you really have to take full advantage of them and hone in on yourself.”