By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — One of the hardest things to do during this pandemic-shortened winter sports season is drumming up a little excitement.
The typical large, boisterous crowds that normally fill gymnasiums and pool decks are missing.
For swim teams that are holding most meets virtually, meaning opponents are miles away rather than in the next lane, it can be difficult to get the competitive juices flowing.
“Doing virtual meets really takes the excitement out of it,” Woodland boys swim coach Brendan Heller said.
As swim teams gear up for the Naugatuck Valley League swimming and diving meets later this month, some teams are getting creative to emulate the pandemonium that exists in a championship meet.
Heller plans to split up his squad into two teams, the Black and Gold, during the Hawks’ virtual meet with Watertown on March 12 to create some spirited competition.
“It will give the kids a chance to compete against one another just for fun, but at the same time create a little competition going up against someone in the next lane,” Heller said.
That competitive edge may just give the Hawks a boost heading into NVLs. The NVL diving competition is set for March 23 at Watertown High School and will be in person. The NVL swim championship meet will be virtual with teams competing by March 25.
“The team with the most depth will have the best chance of winning at the NVL championship,” Heller said. “We are in real good shape to be competitive with four swimmers in each event.”
Woodland improved to 5-0 on the season with victories over Sacred Heart, 101-74, on March 5 and Wilby, 88-69, on March 9.
“We had some challenges to overcome with the weather early on but now we are consistently going six days a week,” Heller said. “We had our first in-person swim meet against Sacred Heart [March 5] and that brought a little more excitement to the meet.”
Noah Scott led the Hawks over Sacred Heart, finishing first in the 100 butterfly in 1 minute, 2.59 seconds and the 50 freestyle in 23.46.
The 200 medley relay team of Patrick Zieba, Jake Arisian, Tyler MacDowall and Chase Starzman finished first in 1:48.21, and the 200 free relay squad of Scott, Aiden Kennedy, Tyler Cyr and Kian Sirowich raced to victory in 1:40.69.
Kennedy won the 200 freestyle (2:01.63), Starzman took first in the 500 freestyle (5:29.60), and Cyr won the 100 freestyle (57.21). DJ Mulligan won the diving competition with a score of 224.10.
Arisian continued his torrid pace in the pool during the virtual meet against Wilby. Arisian broke his own school record in the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.85, which Heller said is a top-ten time at the state open.
“We are excited to see how he can do at the NVL championship,” Heller said.
The Hawks are planning to give the championship meet a little more excitement by swimming the meet against Holy Cross at Kennedy High School on March 24, Heller said.
“Of course we will match up our times with the rest of the league after the March 25 championship, so nothing will be decided that night, but it will create a competitive atmosphere, something that has been missing with the virtual meets,” he said.
Woodland is scheduled to face Holy Cross on March 16, before ending the regular season March 19 against Oxford.