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Medfield swimmers flourish despite COVID hurdles

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Medfield basketball looks pretty much the same, but the players wear masks and there’s no opening tipoff. Warrior soccer had no throw ins, but still pretty much looked like soccer. But because of COVID-19, Medfield High swimming has been radically altered, with teams “facing off” from miles away, never entering the same water.

Yes, Medfield swim meets are entirely virtual now, with the Warriors’ swimmers swimming in their home pool and their opponents swimming in theirs, with the winner determined by comparing the team's event times, often days later. While understandable, it’s far from an ideal situation competitively, with kids swimming against their teammates and the clock only, with no rival high school competitors to chase in the water. While Coach Linnea Borjestedt acknowledged it can be tough, she noted the team was still competing very hard.

“The athletes find it difficult to compete at their normal level when they do not have their competition next to them,” she explained. “Although this year has been different, the team has been very strong.”

Another factor that could hurt motivation is the lack of a big state tournament. The end-of-the-year TVL meet, which usually sees all the teams in the league swim together, has been cancelled, with some teams moving swimming to the “Fall Two” season. Sectionals and states have been cancelled, as well. When asked if there would even be a swimming state champion this year, Borjestedt noted: “It doesn’t look like it. They are trying to put together some sort of invitational meet at the end of the year, but states and sectionals have both been cancelled this year.”

Borjestedt also said she had some players not return to swimming this year, but didn’t know if they’d opted out due to COVID. Despite these potential issues, Medfield swimming is doing very well, with many swimmers flourishing amidst the far-from-ideal situation, including a freshman superstar who has already broken a couple of school records.

“We have a really competitive group of 9th-grade athletes that are new to the team this year. Some of the standouts are Jill DePiero, Nora Herbstzuber, Jayden Clayton, and Quinn Borchers. Quinn has already broken two school records. He now holds school records in the 100 backstroke and the 100 freestyle. A few of our other standouts are Isabella Brown, Kylie Herbstzuber, Rachel Parry, Mary-Katherine Benson, and Sarah Boyd. The girl's team is currently 2-1 in the TVL (Tri-Valley League) and 3-1 overall. The boy's team is 1-2 in the TVL, 1-3 overall.”  

This is especially impressive considering how COVID has impacted their practices. With only 24 swimmers allowed at both practices and meets, practices are split into 45-minute sessions, while meets feature swimmers being rotated. Borjestedt rotates so that she doesn’t have exclusively “practice players,” and so that every swimmer on the team gets to compete in a meet at some point.  

While there are officials at every pool, they are not the same officials at both of the pools being used in the meet. While it would be ideal to have the same official at both pools, COVID has impacted the number of available judges to judge diving, so there may be a shortage.

"This season it has been hard to get officials, just because of everything going on with COVID, so usually you have one official and then your dive coach acts as the second official to score diving. So they kind of talk with each other about the scores and they go from there.”

While all the events and distances remain, masks have been introduced. While the athletes don’t swim in them, they do play a part in the meets.

“When they go up to start their events, they have to put their mask in a plastic bag. They do three events, and at the end of the event, they grab their mask in the bag, swim it down to the other side, put it on, get out of the pool and then they have it on, on deck, at all times.”

There will ultimately be about five meets this year, while a regular year would feature between eight and twelve. Still, despite all these hurdles and issue they have to deal with, the team is in high spirits.

“This season is definitely different than we have had in the past, but we are all making the most of it and have been having a great time.”  

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